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The Dreams of the Memory (If my red eyes don't see you anymore)

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If my red eyes don't see you anymore
And I can't hear you through the white noise
Just send your heartbeat I'll go to the blue ocean floor
Where they find us no more
On that blue ocean floor

 

On that blue ocean floor

Summer has always been his favorite time. There’s no school, he can roam the woods and play with friends and doesn’t need to force himself to concentrate on homework. Summer means freedom and time to discover.

His mom is cleaning up the attic and the old office no one really uses anyway. There are books piled in the hallway, stacked high and looking like they’ll topple over if just a breeze hits them.

Stiles’ is sitting among them, six and eager to see if his mom hid any important books among the ones she kept from university. He’s hoping for cool comics because he knows she loves them as much as he does.

He’d plopped down on the floor the second he came home from the pool, interested in the big tomes and the new smell of old leather. There’s a pile of five books that have captured his interest. He has trouble focusing most days but the books keep him captivated.

The books glow, faintly blue and not really all that bright, but they glow. He’s sure of it. He’s never seen them before and the letters look nothing like the ones Ms. O’Toole shows them every day in class.

He can read just fine, and is even better than Lydia.

But these books are difficult to even look at. They look more like paintings instead of not letters. It’s fascinating to simply look at them and, after a while, harder to look away. He’s drawn to them like they're calling out for him.

One book especially. It’s bound in red leather, thicker than most books he’s ever seen but still okay to be carried through the living room and propped up on his knees. The pages are thinner and feel smooth against his fingers. The script looks handwritten but he isn’t sure because he’s never seen anything like it before. The ink glows blue against the white paper.

He’s leafing through the pages when he feels them sort of pulse beneath his fingers. He almost throws the book across the room.

“Stiles? What’s wrong, honey?”

His mom’s leaning against the kitchen door, a small smile on her lips and eyes on him. He still has a finger between the pages, the pulsing is getting stronger and suddenly his vision darkens and all he can do is watch as a black cloud swallows his mom entirely.

Stiles screams.

He screams as loud and as long as he can, flings the book away from his body and only stops when his mom’s cradling him in her arms, whispering soothing words against his temple. When he looks up at her, nothing seems amiss, but he’s sure. He knows what he just saw. It doesn’t mean anything good.

“Wanna tell me what that was about?” She asks.

He wants to shake his head and tell her something different, but Stiles instinctively knows he can’t lie to her. He’s a big boy now and he knows he doesn’t want to lie to her.

“They glow, mom.” He feels a blush starting on his cheeks, it feels weird talking about it, like he isn’t supposed to see the books like that or like he’s the only one really seeing them. He wiggles closer into his mom’s embrace, just to feel a little safer, more shielded.

“The books?” she asks without even questioning him. It’s something important then- always is if she doesn’t really asks but simply states a fact. It’s still all phrased as a question though.

Stiles nods against her shoulder and feels her pulling him closer.

“Oh, honey. Don’t worry. It’s okay. You’re just a little too young for it. We’ll put them away for now and when the time is right I’ll tell you everything. I’ll show you everything. Okay?”

Her hands move in soothing circles over his shoulders and card through his hair. It calms him down a little, not that his brain ever really shuts up anyway . He nods again and looks at the books piled on the table and the one he flung across the room. They're not for him, not right now anyway.

“Do you want to go and play with D?”

“You think he wants to?”

This friendship is still so new, and the other boy is older, that Stiles can’t really imagine why he even agrees to play with him. Sometimes he thinks he’s just imagining it, but he’s only seven and his brain is a weird place, so who knows. Nobody else ever seems to play with D during recess. Maybe only Stiles can see him, like he’s the only seeing the glowing books. Because he’s pretty sure his mom can’t see the faint blue light coming from between the pages,

“Of course! He loves to play with you. Come one, I’ll drive you over.”
D has a wolf, a real one. He plays with it, calls it woof-wolf when D isn’t around to hear it. He loves burying his fingers in the soft fur, loves it when the wolf follows him home and scares his dad.

He’s not sure how but when the wolf is there D’s always busy but shows up as soon as the wolf is gone. But D insists that the wolf is his.

Stiles forgets about the books.

They’re gone when he comes home from the woods. And the drive in his dad’s cruiser had him distracted from any thoughts about books anyway.

 

++++++

 

He really only remembers at the end of summer, when he accidentally eavesdrops on a conversation his mom has with a strange man on their back porch.

His dad’s out on patrol and he’s supposed to be asleep. School’s starting again, tomorrow and he’s eager to see D again. He hasn’t had the chance to play with the other boy in a week.

Sleep is elusive that night though and he thinks asking his mom for milk with honey is a good idea. Except the kitchen is empty when he comes down. The door to the backyard is slightly ajar and he can hear voices.

Stiles knows it’s not a good idea but he’s too curious. His mom never talks with strange people out in the backyard in the dark after he’s gone to bed. Never. Because she always comes up to tell him a story. He slowly walks across the kitchen, mindful of the chairs in his way and plaster s himself against the fridge. He’s out of sight but can hear well enough now.

“... you think it’s important?” the man says, voice smooth and light. It makes Stiles shiver. It scares him for some reason, too.

“Do I think it’s important? Hell, Alan, my son might be the next guardian. Of course it’s important. He’s too young to even have that spark. I can’t train him now but I feel like I need to.” His mom sounds sad and worried. Stiles has to hold himself back before he storms outside and hugs her.

Stiles has no real idea what they are talking about. Not what that spark is supposed to be or what his mom should train him in.

“Don’t. It’s not developed enough. That he can see the books is rather curious though. It certainly puts a new light on his future abilities. He’ll be more than a guardian it seems. More to the pack he’ll belong to,” the man, Alan, replies and sounds more interested than worried.

“We both know which pack he’ll belong to. I just.... I think it’s better to keep him away until I can train him. He’s already too attached. This is too soon, too early.”

“Then talk to Talia. And do it soon. If you don’t get him away now you won’t be able to anymore. You know all this. The boy will be devastated but talk to him as well, have Talia explain it first and tell him it won’t be forever. “

“This will break Stiles’ heart. At least for a little while.”

Stiles is confused, so very confused and he doesn’t know what to do. It’s when he hears his mom say her goodbyes that he realizes he’s zoned out. He doesn’t know what else they talked about and doesn’t really have the time to sort through his thoughts.

He rushes up the stairs and tries to be as quiet as he can be. But of course, his mom hears him anyway.

“Stiles? Is that you?”

He turns around on the landing and stumbles down the stairs again, trying to appear as sleep drunken as possible.

“Yeah... just wanted something to drink.”

She smiles all sweet and lovingly at him and Stiles can’t imagine her keeping secrets from him.

“Okay. I’ll make you some milk with honey. But then it’s bed time. It’s late and school starts again. I know how excited you are.”

She turns around toward the fridge and takes the milk out. Stiles can only stand there and watch her. He feels like something will happen soon and it won’t be good.

 

+++++

 

“Come on, Stiles. We need to train a little. We should use the chance. Things are calm right now,” Scott not quite whines but it’s a close call.

“Yeah, Scott. Because it always turns out well when we sneak into the woods in the middle of the night,” Stiles sighs into his phone, then yawns so wide that his jaw joint pops.

“You okay, man?”

Stiles blinks at the non-sequitur, slightly surprised at the concern audible in Scott’s voice.

“’M fine. Just tired. Haven’t been sleeping so well.”

It’s a little bit of an understatement, as there are still nightmares haunting him, but lately he’s been having weirdly detailed dreams of his mom, a boy named D and wolves. They leave him confused after waking up, unsure about what they could mean.

He doesn’t know if those dreams are just that – simple dreams or if they might be some more, like memories or something. But he doesn’t trust his own mind very much these days, so he’s not ready to contemplate their meaning… at least not yet.

“Hey, we can train without you. You go and get some sleep, dude,” Scott sounds even more worried now and Stiles tries not to feel too guilty.

“Aww, man. No. It’s okay. I’ll come with and play good little prey. Just like always,” Stiles says, rolling over on his bed until he slides over the edge, head hanging upside down but body still mostly on the mattress. He groans a little at his back popping, it feels good in an uncomfortable sort of way.

“You sure?”

“Yeah, Scotty. I’ll be there. Tomorrow, after school, in the dark sounds like the perfect make up for a classic horror movie. Derek’s gonna be around?”

“Yeah, he’s going to help with the tracking, how to be more effective,” Scott answers, sounding distant for a second before come back on clearly. Stiles smiles at the sound of a Snickers bar being freed of its wrapping.

“Ok. Good. A Jedi-Master there will be.” He snickers at his own joke and tries not to groan out loud when Scott only makes a questioning sound.

“No worries, bro. One day I’ll make you watch it and if I have to chain you to a heater again.”

“Yeah, not one of our best ideas,” Scot snorts.

“You think? See ya in school tomorrow.”

Scott says good night, reminds him to get a good night’s sleep and hangs up before Stiles even has a chance to think about a rant that’s already brewing in his mind.

Stiles is glad that Derek will be around for the first training session in months. He’s happy that Scott and Derek actually get along now, help each other, and listen to each other when things need to be discussed.

He lies like that – head upside-down – stretches his back several times before he scrambles upward again. He jumps a little when he sees his dad leaning against the doorjamb.

“You good, kiddo?”

“All great.”

His dad doesn’t say anything else but lingers a little, watching Stiles. This has been happening a lot lately. Ever since everything was put on the table, since his dad was made aware of the supernatural going-ons in Beacon Hills, he’s taken to just hold in for a second and watch Stiles, as if he’s making sure that Stiles is still there and alive.

The surge of guilt is expected, the surge of love and protectiveness is as well, it’s only the sadness in its fierceness throws Stiles a little. He’s sad that his dad had to be made aware and is therefore worrying even more.

When the Sheriff goes back to sorting the linen closet in the hallway, Stiles drags the dusty old book he’s been studying for a few days closer. He settles back down onto his bed, unearths his notebook from yet another pile of very old books and starts going through the first few pages again.

He’s not even startled anymore when the letters start to glow. The book is magic after all. He does however blink several times to adjust his eyes to the sudden addition of brightness to his otherwise dimmed down room.

The house is quiet now; just a little groaning from the wind outside and Stiles can occasionally hear his dad shuffling around doing chores. Otherwise it’s the kind of lingering silence that settles around you and lulls you into a kind of peaceful trance.

He falls asleep with his thumb still slightly stroking over the notes in the margins, clearly added centuries after the original text was written. Strong strokes and slopes in dark ink, reminding him of the birthday cards safely stored away in a glittery box in the back of his closet.

All of those cards are signed the same way:

I love you. Always, mommy

 

++++++

 

After that summer evening there’s a brown-black wolf following. It looks like D’s woof-wolf but it never comes closer.

It shows up when he’s playing close to the Hale house – though he never dares to get closer or go inside anymore. His mom doesn’t want him to; she says he should play with kids his age because D has his own friends as well.

Stiles doesn’t want to believe her and waits for D to show up in their backyard like he always did. But no one ever comes. He’s not allowed into the woods either - but he and D always went and he’s not going to tell.

He misses the house and the people inside. He especially misses D., they’re all like family to him and he doesn’t know why he can’t be there anymore. He doesn’t really understand it.

The wolf shows up every time he feels the need to disobey and soldier on right into the Hale house. Stepping inside the Hale house is like coming home. It feels too familiar sometimes and it confuses Stiles The wolf makes it so that it hurts less, it seems to know exactly when Stiles needs someone close by and needs the contact.

Sometimes it even follows him home.

His mom never says anything and she never chases it away, but the disapproval is always there, hidden behind a smile that doesn’t quite reach her eyes. Stiles always feels like the wolf is the one earning this look, like it’s doing something that she forbid. But that would mean she knows the wolf and that’s just impossible.

Even at his age, Stiles is aware of the fact that having a wolf following him around is dangerous and the fact that his mom doesn’t do anything about it is equally suspicious. But he’s too young to grasp what that means and instead revels in the knowledge that he does at least have one friend left.

The wolf stays around for a while; a few months, maybe even a year. Stiles only ever sees him in the woods or at home, never anywhere else. Sometimes he has to ask his mom to be sure that the wolf’s real.

He still likes to bury his fingers in the soft and thick fur, loves to drop down into the summer warm grass and just curl up against the big warm body. The wolf is easily taller than him when they’re lying down and Stiles never even thinks about being scared. Ever since the first time those flashing blue eyes looked at him from between the trees, Stiles knew something special was happening.

He talks to the wolf, like he used to talk to D. The wolf, just like D sometimes, answers in nudges and grunts. There are licks as well and Stiles always giggles. The wolf sometimes reminds him off D and there are often tears sliding down his cheeks. The wolf lays his head against Stiles’ chest during these times and Stiles pulls him closer.

When summer ends and the school year’s halfway done, there’s a new boy in school and Stiles likes him. They don’t need long before they ask their mothers for sleepovers and play-dates. They’re inseparable after only a month.

The wolf disappears right around the same time. After Stiles saw him watching from the edge of the woods during recess one day.

Stiles mourns the loss for a while but is too occupied with the new fresh friendship to really ask or think about why.

 

++++++

 

When the wolf is gone, D turns into the kind of an imaginary friend every child has. At first there are glances across the schoolyard, scowls and frowns. Then there are different groups of friends and finally different schools.

He’s forgotten among real friendships and the passing of time. He’s only a faint memory by the time Stiles’ mom has to spend the first of many months in the hospital.

D is as forgotten as the glowing books or the conversation overheard one evening. There’s no one around to teach or train or to remember, to remind. It all gets forgotten.

 

++++++

 

The wind’s harsh, almost feeling like it’s cutting into his skin. It’s supposed to be fall and he feels like he’s freezing his ass off. This is so not fun.

His feet tangle every few seconds while he tries not to faceplant right into the forest floor. He’s been running for a while, almost mindlessly, most definitely directionless. He knows he’s still in the Preserve, that the road as well as the old Hale house lie somewhere behind him. But that’s about it.

There isn’t any kind of reference point or hint about where exactly he is right now. He doesn’t like that. He explicitly hates having no clue or no control over things.

He hates Scott a little for talking him into this. But then they both know that Stiles wouldn’t ever let them doing anything in the woods without him being there.

“This is really not what we had planned. This is me being all alone in the dark woods playing pretend Red Riding Hood. This is not as easy as Scott had made it sound. Of course not. How could it be, this is my life after all.”

There’s so much he could be doing right now. It’s Friday, after all. He could go out, well yeah not really but still, it’s the thought that counts. There’s research to be done. He has, after all, found books containing magic spell that obviously belonged to his mother.

He’s spent several nights going through the books he found hidden in a wooden chest in their attic. It was like those books had called out to him after he’d woken up from yet another paralyzing nightmare. He felt like he had to go up there and look.

Finding those books, seeing his mom’s notes and having the letters glow at him should’ve been a warning. He ignored it for science’s sake or, you know, research.

It’s not like he sleeps much anyway. And it’s not like he really talks about what’s been going on with him. He’s strictly following his own rule of ignoring it until it goes away.

Stiles knows Scott’s aware that things are far from normal but his best friend goes along with Stiles’ tactic of not mentioning anything. Scott will probably go along with it until Stiles crashes or fucks something else up. For now, though, he’s busy trying to be a good human being and a good alpha, even though there isn’t much of a pack left to be alphaed (shut up, Scott this is a word).

Sure there is Kira now, and Malia, but Isaac left and Ethan, too. Apparently Danny knows about everything but prefers rather not to be part of anything. Lydia is still there as well, still part of everything in her own unique way. But Allison… well, she’s not.

And Stiles isn’t even sure if Derek can be counted at all. He’s not part of the pack but hangs around and helps. Derek is finally the big brother that he’d wanted to be since the beginning. He provides knowledge and guidance when needed but stays at the sidelines for the rest of the time.

Stiles doesn’t really know what to think about it. They’ve been spending a lot of time together lately, Derek offering books when Stiles gets stuck, or sometimes even his family’s tales. Derek’s been friendly, calmed down a little but still grumpy. Recently, Stiles actually finds that he’s comfortable around Derek more than before.

He’s really not ready to think about this particular fact or even start to analyze it. Knowing what Derek did for him while he was possessed, that Derek kept Chris Argent from killing him, throws him a little every time he thinks about it.

He stumbles over another root, curses again, catching himself against a tree and realizes how cold he actually is. He’s been lost in his own thoughts for a while, which is both stupid and very dangerous considering where he lives.

“I should just turn around and walk back home. Why am I even still here? ... urgh.”

Stiles has been running for the better part of the last hour and he’s exhausted. Not only physically but mentally as well. He’s tired, moody as hell and generally displeased. A storm’s brewing close by, sure to hit pretty soon – knowing his luck, probably when he’s still out and about. It’s getting colder, too and a little too misty for his taste.

He longs for his bed even more now, a good movie, maybe even guilty pleasure food and a few hours in the folds of the online community. He longs for something he doesn’t have to think about and fret over.

“Dammit,” he curses when he stumbles yet again. And here he thought lacrosse would make him less klutzy and more graceful. Wishful thinking, all of it.

The control his body had while being taken over – that’s something Stiles actually misses. Some of it is still around, though. The magic within him, binding some of the Nogitsune’s essence – that’s what Deaton called it when Stiles, after one of his nightmares and in a fit of panic crashed through the vet clinic yielding balls of fire on his hands that he didn’t even feel at all or knew how to get rid of. It’s residue left behind by spirit so old a mere human being should never be able to mention control.

Stiles has been trying to anyway. Because apparently his spark isn’t just a spark anymore – and never really was, just that way to begin with. It doesn’t fill him with confidence that Deaton seemed as surprised as Stiles felt.

He flops against a tree trunk, sighs heavily, mostly out of frustration. His whole body aches, muscles aching that he didn’t even know existed. He just really wants to turn around and go home. Scott’s puppy dog eyes and Kira’s innocent smile be damned.

The wind picks up just then, ruffles his hair and creeping under his hoodie. Stiles knows he needs to move before he gets too cold or, worse, gets caught in the rain he’s sure will start at any second. So he starts running again.

His cell phone beeps, makes him jump a little and crash into a nearby tree. He scrapes his shoulder against the bark. Of course, of-fucking-course. Why should there be an outing into the forest that doesn’t end with him bloody and bruised? Why break the tradition for a simple training run?

“Oh my God, can this be over please? Why did I promise to stay until they found me? I don’t even want to be found.”

There’s a text from Scott, telling him that they’ll keep going for another hour or until they find him. It says that Derek’s keeping track, trying to be more of a guide and that Kira and Malia have paired off. Which means that Scott’s on his own.

None of them have come for him yet and he almost grins. The little extra he added to tonight’s training session? Well, it’s a spell.

Deaton has been trying to train him, but between school and not dealing with things, there hadn’t been much time yet. It’s only been a few weeks since everything happened and since he found the books. Plus patience has never been his strong suit.

The spell weaving its ways around him right now is pretty simple, he doesn’t need much spark. He knows it’s cheating. But no one told him he can’t to use magic. Though to be fair, no one, besides Deaton, actually knows he’s able to use it.

Stiles moves around some of the larger trees in the Preserve, finally realizing that he’s close to a clearing that he knows, one that’ll be okay to wait in. It’s close to the Nemeton but far enough away that he doesn’t feel too creeped out by it.

There’s still this pull inside of him, a thrumming he can’t pinpoint but he knows exactly where it’s coming from. He’s been ignoring it for weeks now, though.

He’s about to turn, to push his way through the underbrush when his foot gets caught in another twisted root . Then he’s suddenly stumbling into a clearing he hadn’t noticed before. Which is weird because the trees aren’t that dense around here. A branch manages to sneak inside the arm of his hoodie and scratch along the skin. Stiles swears, in both pain and annoyance.

“Of course. And now they’ll be able to smell the blood. Just great.”

Stiles takes a breath, tries to calm down because for some reason his heartbeat’s sky-rocketed. He takes a look around the clearing, notices the trees seem blurry, and instantly knows it’s a place he shouldn’t be. His skin’s crawling with something unknown, something that feels dangerous - like there’s an invisible shield and he somehow managed to stumble through it.

The skin on his arms prickles more and he shivers, mostly because this place makes his body vibrate with an undercurrent of fear. Suddenly he wishes the pack would have caught him already.

The magic all over the clearing brushes against his skin, connecting to his spark somehow, in a way that instantly terrifies him. His own magic tingles and stutters a little before it settles back into the warm flow he’s gotten used to over the past few days.

Stiles is still surprised how natural it feels to use his magic, how it seems like it’s been a part of him all his life. And, he thinks, it might’ve been the way memories he always thought of as fantasies have begun to trickle back into his mind while going through the books that clearly once belonged to his mom.

Days after the initial shock of finding the chest and crashing into Deaton’s all on fire, Stiles allowed that feeling of familiarity to settle into his bones. Memories buried so deep that now he only sees them in his dreams, when he isn’t tormented by nightmares. The books feel right when he touches them, a sense of belonging, of déjà vu even.

His mother knew. He’s gone through stages of shock, anger and irritation; mostly at the fact that he has no chance to ask his mom now. What would she have told him, would she have been able to help him? Did she know about the werewolves? Did she know about other supernatural things?

Derek’s mother, the Hale pack really, is mentioned sometimes in the notes in the margins of the yellowed pages. And yet he hasn’t said a single word to Derek.

Stiles shakes himself a little, it’s not the right moment to get lost inside his own head again. Something’s off here but it’s hard to define, which makes him all the more cautious and wary.

Eerily silent, the woods stand dark around him.

Stiles is prepared for something, even someone, to jump out from behind a tree and scare him to death. He’s getting ready for an attack, against claws, sharp teeth, and maybe even a knife or a gun or something. It’s no wonder that any prospect of a normal life sometimes seems boring compared to his constant preparations for war, even if it’s just in his own head.

What he’s not prepared for, or even expecting, is blue mist and a figure dramatically swirling into existence right in front of him.

“Seriously?”

The man that emerges looks so ordinary that Stiles, for a second, thinks he’s hallucinating. The man’s dressed in a black shirt and dark jeans, with pale skin peeking out from under the sleeves. His dark brown hair’s askew and his pale grey eyes focus entirely on Stiles. Nothing special really, nothing to be afraid of. And yet Stiles is instantly terrified.

The cold suddenly seeps into his bones, deep and frosty like nothing else he’s ever felt before. Stiles takes a step back. The ground’s slippery under his feet, wet from dew and earlier rain showers. His sneakers squelch and the sound is like a clap of thunder in the dense silence of the clearing.

This whole scene feels so wrong that Stiles, for the first time in months, feels the urge to run grow stronger than his need to protect that pack, his friends, and his father. The selfish need to survive this is natural. And after everything, he’s stupidly happy about it still being there.

“Ah, there you are. It is you. The magical novice I’ve heard about. Or should I say amateur? That seems more fitting.”

Stiles is momentarily stunned speechless. How the hell does that guy know about him? What the hell is going on? He prays that his brain-to-mouth filter is active and is sorely disappointed when the words leaving his mouth aren’t at all what he’s meant to say. He prays that his brain-to-mouth filter is active and is sorely disappointed when the words leaving his mouth aren’t at all what he’s meant to say.

“Please, the twirling, sparkling and showing off is so yesterday. It’s not like everyone around here will all go ‘wow magic, look at that.’ Knowing them, they might even laugh at the half rainbow you did. Seriously, a little too much drama, dude.”

“Mouthy. I like it. But it is a little disrespectful, don’t you think?”

Stiles shivers again, but this time not because of the wind and instead because of the coldness in the stranger’s voice. He’s pretty sure that he’s stumbled on something he’d rather not. Too late now, though. And talking himself out of the mess seems unlikely, especially considering the sneer and hard eyes focused on him.

The man steps closer and Stiles has a hard time not flinching, which would give away how scared he actually is. He instinctively draws himself up - the way he’s seen Derek do whenever something unknown, something not pack, is facing and/or threatening them. Which is happening right now, he realizes. Stiles just knows, maybe even feels that everything about that guy in front of him is a threat.

“Brave, too. I admire that. But still, you are not supposed to be here. Let’s see,” the man says, voice blank, no inflection or emotion present.

“Ah... hiding. From wolves it seems. Interesting, if not a little foolish. This little spell of yours, it’s good but so very simple. You changed it, credit to your mind then. But I’ll show you how it’s done. The challenge will be for you to figure out how to undo it.”

The smirk that accompanies the man’s words has Stiles’ heart beating frantically in his chest and he hopes, prays, even more now that one of the pack hears it or even feels it. Cold sweat runs down his back, making his shirt cling to his skin in an uncomfortable way.

Suddenly Stiles wishes he’d refused Scott, would’ve stayed home and never gotten involved in any of this.

“They can’t hear you. This clearing is mine and no one comes inside except when I want them to. How you managed to enter is interesting. You’re much stronger than you seem. For now, though, I want to have some fun. It promised me you’d be fun.”

Who the hell is ‘it’? And why did ‘it’ know about Stiles? He shivers more, his tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth, making it impossible for him to speak. It’s not him, though, it’s the magic pouring off of the - well let’s face it, the guy is a witch, a mage or a warlock - man front of him.

Stiles is pretty sure he’d talk the guy’s ears off if he could. He’s scared, dammit, and he needs to talk. That he can’t has his heart racing and his mind going into overdrive. It makes him feel all the more vulnerable that he can’t use his most powerful weapon. Words are usually all he has, his voice is what he uses the best. He has no understand of voiceless magic nor how to counteract spells.

Right now, though, Stiles silently curses himself for not trying harder during Deaton’s training sessions.

The man in black - Stiles basically sees Scott rolling his eyes inside his head - steps impossibly closer, into Stiles’ comfort zone and it feels like he’s enclosed them in a bubble of magic, shutting them away from everything outside.

It’s still so very cold.

But Stiles knows it’s more the man’s aura and less the storm that’s finally reached the woods raging loudly around them. Stiles can hear the wind and rain; he can hear it loud and clear. He just can’t feel it.

Stiles, for the first time in over a year, is scared to death, and this without being possessed or any kind of violence present.

“You want to hide from them? Hmm, I don’t think so. You want them to see you, realize how integral you are to their survival. You will be once you figure out your little talent. You smell of it, too. Smell like so much power and you don’t even know it. It’s so very refreshing to find something so innocent in these woods. It doesn’t happen often these days.”

The words almost whispered against his cheek.

Stiles is frozen, unable to move. Blood rushes in his ears and his heart’s beating so fast it hurts. He feels the panic sliding over him. All the can think is not again. He can’t lose control again. Not so soon after …. Not again. His thoughts trail off, it hurts to breath, hurts to even think, but it especially hurts to know that he’s powerless all over again

The sob the leaves him, that feels like it’s forced out of him, echoes within the bubble that surrounds them. It’s a sound that scares him even more, because it suddenly reminds him that he’s still weak and not yet able to really protect himself.

“I’ll show you how to really hide,” the man says, touching Stiles' shoulder just slightly. Stiles screams in pain then feels himself crumbling to the forest floor, his only thought is how much it hurts.

He wants the pain to stop. Now.

“They’ll look but won’t see. Only the pack, though. Just the one of them who really wants will. No communication with them. Choose one, though, to talk to. Maybe they’ll listen in the end. Oh, but I guess he will. As bonded as you are. But then, you are so clueless. It’ll be pleased to know how bonded you are. One more piece of leverage. But let’s not get greedy, shall we? ”

It? Who the hell is ‘it’?

Another touch.

Stiles can’t scream anymore, already hoarse and close to blacking out. It hurts worse than anything he’s ever known. Worse than the Nogitsune leaving his body. Darkness finally claims him when he thinks he can’t stand it anymore. The last thing he feels is his body sagging in relief.

 

++++

If my red eyes don't see you anymore

“Hey, wake up, Sunshine. Come on, wake up.”

There’s a hand on his shoulder, shaking him gently, but he doesn’t want to open his eyes, he doesn’t want to face the world. Facing the world means acknowledging that an important part of his world his missing.

He can’t do that, he’s not ready – even though he’d known it would happen for years. No, that’s not right it should be weeks not years. He doesn’t know why he suddenly thinks in years and of a black cloud surrounding his mom. That was just a bad dream. Everything is just a bad dream.

“Sunshine, please.”

He knows the voice, knows the nickname but he can’t remember from where. It’s all a blur now but it feels familiar, it feels like home.

He blinks his eyes open and stares at the ones looking down at him. He’s too young to really be able to read people’s expressions or their faces but he knows the eyes looking back at him now are full of concern.

“There you are. Everyone’s looking for you. You shouldn’t be here.”

He knows he shouldn’t. His mom’s always forbidden him from entering the woods. But his mom is… she’s not… and are forbidden things still valid when no one can forbid them anymore?

“It’s my place. It feels safe. Who… who are you?”

The boy, no, he’s a teenager, in front of him blinks, momentarily stunned. He turns to someone who’s standing behind him, out of Stiles’ field of vision, and when he turns back there’s a slight frown on his face.

“You… you don’t remember?” His words sound a little sad, almost dejected. But Stiles can only stare because there is something familiar about the boy, those eyes and the frown make him look very scowly and almost angry.

And then it’s suddenly there. “D?”

The smile isn’t huge, just a small quirk of lips but it lights up the boy’s eyes and Stiles suddenly feels lighter, like he did something right, something good.

“Hey, sunshine. Come on, let’s get you back. Your dad is frantic, looking for you. Everything’s going to be okay.”

He spends the rest of the day clinging close to the boy – to D who Stiles only remembers as a vague memory now and it makes him sad all over again. They don’t talk about the funeral or what it means. Instead, they sit in the Stilinski backyard and watch people.

D makes up stories about the ones they don’t know and Stiles hides small smiles against the older boy’s shoulder, never daring to move more than an inch away, even when someone wants to express their condolences.

It’s late, he must have dozed off, when he feels D stiffen beneath him. He blinks his eyes open slowly and realizes that they are settled on the stairs inside. There’s light coming from the kitchen and he hears voices now. He suddenly knows why D went all tense.

“… you know he belongs. He’ll forget soon and it’s not good. For either of them. It’ll make things so much harder later on. John, please. The boy needs guidance and training.”

He recognizes the voice, knows it’s D’s momma and shivers at the urgent tone. He snuggles closer to the warm body beneath him and thinks he’s a little too old to sit in someone’s lap and yet he doesn’t move at all. D’s arms around him pull him tighter, soft warm breath ruffles his hair and he can feel a kiss pressed against his head. He feels safe, sheltered and he doesn’t want to lose this feeling. Not now, especially not now.

“Talia, I know. I know. I don’t really know what’s going on. Claudia never really explained it, All she said was that there was still time, but then she couldn’t even remember it anymore. I know she had rules about this and Stiles is still too young. I’ll follow her rules. I know she was right about it. I’m sorry Talia but I can’t do anything right now.”

His father’s words sound final.

Suddenly Stiles knows he’ll lose D all over again. He just knows it and so he buries his face deeper into the shoulder that’s started to shake a little and clings even harder to the boy he somehow knows he won’t see again for a very long time.

“Boys,” he hears Talia say with an amused undertone, but he doesn’t dare look at her or at his dad who he knows is standing in the hallway as well. He doesn’t want to let go and he will show them with all his might.

He’s only eight years old but he knows how to fight for the things he wants. His temper tantrums are legendary or they are when he can force his brain to concentrate long enough not to lose interest and actually get one going.

“Oh Stiles, please don’t…” His dad is kneeling besides them now, a strong hand on his back and his voice soft and sad.

Stiles doesn’t know when he started crying but he suddenly becomes aware of the sobs wrecking his body and D’s own sobs underneath him as well.

“Please don’t cry, sunshine. All’s going to be okay,” D mumbles into his hair and Stiles knows they both can hear the lie in those words.

Talia looks on quietly but doesn’t try to convince his Dad of whatever they’d been talking about. D is almost as inconsolable as Stiles is, clings just as strongly and even growls a little when Stiles’ dad comes too close to them.

It takes them hours to calm him down and in the end he mostly just succumbs to exhaustion. D’s gone when he wakes up the next day but there’s a fluffy blanket with moons and stars printed all over it. He knows it’s D’s.

D stays gone. He turns into the imaginary friend again, the one he’s always telling Scott about. That night gets lost among the rest of the grief of the following years, the struggles of growing up and becoming his own person.

Even so, the blanket, along with his favorite pillow, stay on Stiles’ bed for years to come.

 

+++++

 

It’s not the dream that wakes him but the violent shivers and the incessant pounding in his head. It’s not a pleasant way to join consciousness. Usually headaches put him to sleep, but this one is too persistent to ignore.

The groan that slips out when he tries to open his eyes is more of a whimper pressed into wet grass than a real expression of how he feels. Even his voice chords are doused in pain it seems.

“I’m alive then. Good thing...” Stiles mumbles into the leaf-covered forest floor and revels in the fact that he can feel them against his lips, taste the earthy tang in the air so close to the ground.

He is alive. He thinks it might be a miracle.

He lies there for a while, not sure how to move without actually moving his head or any other muscle in his body. Even breathing hurts. So much so that he never ever wants to feel like this again. His body feels like one giant bruise, like one big muscle cramp and he isn’t sure how even get up right now.

Once he blinks his eyes open he realizes it’s still dark, still raining and he’s still in the middle of the clearing. At least the man in black - yes, he still knows how stupid that sounds - is gone.

His eyes slowly adjust to the darkness around him, making it easier to orient himself. The arm pinned beneath his body is numb; his shoulders wound tight with tension but the knowledge that he’s alone in the clearing has him slumping back down against the wet ground.

Moving is difficult and results in stabs of pain and deep groans. He manages to flop to his side, though, finally able to take in more of the clearing. For a second, when he just lies there, everything is peaceful and subdued.

There’s no apparent danger, but he knows full well how that feeling can never be trusted. Not around these woods or this town.

Then all his senses come back at once, everything rushing back to him, almost crushing him with its intensity. Everything is suddenly too loud, the drip-dripping of residual rain drops, the breeze in the crown of the trees and even the birds far up or the doe close by – all of it is too loud, too much.

It takes his senses a moment to settle, to adjust. And it’s one of the most unpleasant moments in his admittedly short life.

He needs to get up and figure how long he’s been out and where the hell his pack’s gone off to. It’s still dark, though, so it can’t have been that long. It still scares slightly that he doesn’t really have any point of reference.

After a deliberately deep breath, Stiles opens his eyes and starts struggling into a sitting position. He groans, flinches a bit and shivers his way up and then stills.

The clearing looks and even feels so very different from before that he starts doubting his sanity - he even wonders if all of this really happened. The thrum of magic he’d felt before is gone, completely erased from the air and everything around him.

Even his own spark, still caught up in the spell, feels subdued somehow. Less sparky if someone was to ask for a description. But he still feels the Nemeton close by, he can almost hear its magic singing in his bones and it makes him shiver all over again. It’s like a low-level electric current is running through his body but at the same time that’s not exactly right.

All he knows is that something happened. Something big. Stiles just has no idea what.

He’s now sitting on the wet ground of a completely normal clearing in the middle of the Preserve in Beacon County, his body aching and his head throbbing something fierce. Stiles feels like the universe is mocking him. At least getting to his feet seems to be doable, so he struggles all the way up, taking another look around in the darkness as he stands and sighs.

Just when he’s about to start the trek back to his Jeep, the pack comes crashing through the trees, leaping, growling and wild and Stiles has never been this happy to see them. All of them, even though it’s kind of their fault that he’s even in this situation.

“Man, I’ve never been so glad to see your stupid faces.” He feels himself flailing a little when he tries to get in their way and simultaneously stay out of it. Would be just his luck to get run over by wolfed-out (coyoted-out even) Weres on a rescue mission.

At least he hopes it’s a rescue mission and that they’ve realized something’s definitely not right here.

Scott’s leading, eyes red to see through the murky darkness, but Derek isn’t far behind. That’s actually a picture Stiles had hoped for for so long but thought he’d never see happening. They’re almost equal now, Derek deferring to Scott as Alpha even though he isn’t part of the pack and Scott asking Derek for help, for guidance.

Malia’s growling straight out, half-shifted and wilder than Stiles has seen her since they made her turn back. Kira has her Katana out, eyes shifting, body taut and alert.

But none of them stop where he’s standing. Not a single one of them and Stiles feels his stomach drop. They almost fly through the clearing, noses in the wind, sniffing and eyes glowing. Even Kira glows, something that rarely happens. But none of them even look in his direction.

He’s suddenly cold, dread spreading through him like a flood, fast and devastating. He’s so cold and has never felt more alone while being this close to the pack, to his friends, his family.

“No. No. Come on, guys. That was just a dream, a hallucination. No way. I’m right here. Look at me! Dammit! Scott! Scotty, I’m right here. Derek… come on, guys.”

Scott moves his head a little, narrows his eyes in a way that makes Stiles’ heart start beating even more frantically. The tiny sliver of hope that is about to settle within him dies an instant death the second his best friend turns back towards the back without as much as a blink.

Slowly, Stiles moves closer to the middle of the clearing, closer to the pack, eyes focused on them, trying to pick up every little change that might indicate that they know he’s there.

But there’s nothing.

Invisible, that’s what he is. In the literal sense now and not just being ignored like usual. None of their oh-so-heightened senses seem to pick up the fact that he’s literally standing right next to them.

The second he reaches out, trying to touch Scott, Stiles doubles over in pain. It’s so sudden, so searing, that he’s down on his knees curling in on himself before he really knows what’s happening.

“Fuck… Oh God… what…” he pants through the pain, heaving and almost collapsing back down onto the forest floor. Black dots swim in front of his eyes, his entire body is shaking with the effort to bear the pain.

It’s gone as fast as it hit, leaving him breathless and confused.

The pack is oblivious to it all, of course, still searching the clearing, sniffing the air fruitlessly.

Derek is the first one to shift back. Slowly, so carefully and as cautious as Stiles has seen before, as if he’s close to losing control. Derek’s only ever this careful when he knows, really knows, that something’s off.

“Where is he?” Derek sounds so utterly bewildered that Stiles blinks, shocked himself.

“I heard him. He should be here. There’s nothing,” it’s not said to anyone in particular - mostly to himself.

Stiles watches as Scott moves closer to Derek, not taking his eyes off the older werewolf, frowning deeply when it seems like no real explanation is forthcoming.

“He’s not here, Derek. His phone goes straight to voice mail. I think he just went home when we couldn’t find him. That would be just like him,” Scott says with a smile that does seemingly nothing to appease Derek, or Malia for that matter, who’s started growling again.

“Don’t you feel it, Scott?” Derek asks, tone resigned as if he’s done with Scott’s inability to use his sense to their full extent. Scott still has a lot to learn.

“What’ya mean? This clearing feels a little weird but…”

“And that’s exactly it. This clearing… It’s feels wrong, as if it’s occupied even though no one’s here. It smells off, too. Don’t you smell the faint trace of magic? Something happened here. We need to find Stiles.”

To Stiles’ surprise Scott nods, frown even deeper now, like he finally caught up to what Derek’s been sensing all along and really doesn’t like what it’s telling him.

“You don’t think he’s… again?”

Stiles shivers because of course they’d think if it first. Weak little Stiles who gets possessed when no one’s looking. Thanks for that reminder, Scott.

“Dude... come on!” He feels stupid talking to them when none of them can hear him, but it’s just as wrong not to talk, not to comment.

“No,” Derek almost growls. “It doesn’t… smell like it. It’s magic but different. It’s hard to explain right now. But it’s not a demonic possession by a psychotic fox spirit.”

None of the pack argues that and really it’s hard to argue with Derek when he makes a statement like that and sounds like he won’t even acknowledge any kind of dissent.

“Okay. Right. We should split up. Look for Stiles’ Jeep and check his home. Maybe the station, too. His dad has the night shift, just… don’t tell the Sheriff yet…. In case. We’ll check the hospital later if we can’t find him. And someone should call Lydia.”

It happens so fast that Stiles isn’t really sure if this all isn’t just one of his frequent nightmares. One second the pack’s still there and in the next they’re all running off into different directions.

Stiles slides down the tree he’d been leaning against after the pain subsided. The wetness of the grass beneath him only barely registers, his mind’s occupied with thoughts about what just happened. Theories are already forming and being dismissed as soon as the he comes up with them and so Stiles sits there for another few minutes.

He’s really not sure what to do now. He could freak out here, out in the woods in the middle of the night or he could try to keep it together until he’s back home, safely inside and not in danger of being hexed again.

Going home it is.

When Stiles reaches his Jeep he’s surprised that he doesn’t remember how he got there and how calm he still is. Then he sees his cell phone lying on his passenger seat, lightening up with calls, messages and notifications. He crumbles right there against the side of the car.

He’s fucking invisible to his pack, his friends, and to everything that grounds him in reality.

His breath is coming in painful gasps now, just thinking about having lost his anchor, of maybe getting lost inside his head again if he’s not able to communicate with the very reason why he’s still around and halfway sane, has him on the verge of a panic attack before he can even open his car and climb inside.

While he’s kneeling there in the mud, struggling for breath, feeling his heart pound in his chest, Stiles wishes he’d never found the books in the first place, or that he’d never gotten the idea to try those spells without telling anybody.

He’s cursing his spark all over again when he feels the Nemeton respond in waves of cold magic running over his skin and through his bones. Ice takes over his body, a cold so deep-seated that he knows it’ll take more power, more will than he possesses right now, to get rid of it again.

 

+++++

 

An hour later he’s ready to crash face-first into his bed, let sleep take over and forget about what is his life right now. The cold in his bones makes it hard to stay wake, to concentrate and to suppress the urge to just huddle in the shower letting scalding hot water burn his skin.

His head swims in the worst possible way, so much so that his eyes burn and his lids are heavy with exhaustion. The new clothes he’d put on after stumbling his way from the driveway up to his room don’t seem to be doing much on the task of keeping him warm. The drive home clarifies one question though, the spell doesn't seem to affect people outside the immediate pack. Stiles isn't exactly sure how the spell differentiates but people, like his neighbor Mr. Clarke can see and hear him just fine. Figures.

Shivers rake through his body, the foreign magic that caught him so easily in its bubble seems to be lingering after all, binding his own spark down in a way that makes it hard for Stiles to reach out to it. It’s still there, though, thrumming under his skin, throbbing along with his headache and his jumping pulse.

Just feeling it, even if it’s not the most pleasant thing right now, helps him settle it a little. He feels safer again, still terrified to hell and back, but safer nonetheless. He has, after all, a line of defense on his side that doesn’t mean he needs to depend on the wolves or the rest of the pack.

The dark magic the warlock most definitely put on him feels like a shirt that’s too tight and clinging to his skin. It’s not uncomfortable but not really nice either. He can breathe without it tightening too much but it’s still there and he can’t shake it.

Stiles heaves a sigh, eyes his bed one last time before committing himself to an all-nighter, because figuring out this entire mess is more important than sleeping.

The first thing he does is checking his cell phone. He’d tried to read some of the messages on the way home but it had all been gibberish. It’s still gibberish, all messed up symbols that make no sense whatsoever. It’s not a code, just a random number of signs, symbols and letters. The voice messages are just static noise that reminds him, all over again, of how horror movie like this whole scenario is. He’d laugh about it if it all wasn’t so fucked up.

The fact is that he’s invisible to the pack, to all their senses it seems – and most likely to all wolves, coyotes, kitsunes, banshees and humans belonging to the pack alike. He should probably figure out who the spell considers as pack.

He’s really not looking forward to his dad having a freak out when realizes that he can’t see or talk to his only son anymore. Just when Stiles is about to delve deeper into those kind of ideas, his cell phone beeps signaling a new text message.

Stiles doesn’t jump or flail out of his desk chair but it’s a close thing. Heart in his throat, he grabs for the phone and almost weeps in relief when he can read his dad’s words just fine. The Sheriff’s not pack! Stiles thinks he’s never been this happy about this little fact.

”Care to tell me why Scott just showed up looking for you? At 3AM?”

”Don’t know. Probably had a weird dream? I’m fine. Home and fine.

It’s probably a little too much to actually convince his dad, but he really doesn’t have the presence mind to come up with something more believable or trying to explain everything right now. Stiles just hopes his dad will hold off with the interrogation until morning.

”Ok. Go back to sleep. Told him you are fine.”

”Thanks.”

Stiles leans back against the chair again, he only wants to close his eyes for a little while and he’s not really planning on falling asleep. The last thought he has is that he maybe should have stayed home tonight.

 

+++++

And I can't hear you through the white noise

The sun in his face is kind of really annoying but not what woke him up. When he manages to blink his eyes open he sees his dad is leaning over the bed.

“Everything all right, son?”

Stiles groans, deep and kind of satisfying, breathes in deeply, slowly. Just to feel that he can. His dad can see him, can talk to him. Stiles had honestly thought things would be worse this morning, that the text last night had just been a glitch in the spell or something.

This is so much better.

“Fine, dad. Why?”

The Sheriff straightens up again, relief visible on his face, eyes going from narrowed to bright, alert in a fraction of a second.

“That pack of yours seemed to be a little worried about you, judging from the messages I got this morning. You should call them. I’m gonna go to bed now.”
The Sheriff’s already on his way out before Stiles can do more than nod. It’s better this way anyway. He can’t explain things he doesn’t know himself.

He’s staring at his ceiling. He can still see patches of super-glue where he tried to stick up his glow-in-the-dark stars, back when he was twelve and brave - or stupid according to his dad - enough to climb a ladder standing on his bed.

The magic squeezing around his chest reminds him of just how far away from that kind of bravery he is right now.

“Of course, it couldn’t have just been a stupid dream. God, this sucks.”

He sighs again, heaves himself up and reaches for his phone. He wouldn’t be him if he didn’t at least try to call the pack, no matter how in vain it might be. He just has to try.

There’s a dial tone for a second, when it connects though all he gets s static instead of Scott’s voice. The same thing happens with every other member of the pack. It’s only when he calls Derek that he gets a third of a hello out before the call is dropped.

Stiles tries texting next, watches the circle gray out every single time without ever connecting to the server. Then it's e-mails, Twitter and Facebook messages. He either gets told there’s an error occurring or the text he types makes no sense at all. And apparently Deaton’s not so keen on answering his calls or texts at all today, which hurts a little.

Giving up after yet another failed attempt at any kind of communication with the pack, Stiles is ready to scream. He thinks fuck it and does just that with his pillow pressed against his face.

“Well, success definitely looks different,” he mutters into the fabric, grimacing when he tastes stale soap and too strong shampoo. The pillowcase definitely needs to see the inside of the washer again, this will be worth losing a night of sleep over to see his trusted bed companion all clean again.

Sitting up, he scoots to settle against the wall, pillow at his back, laptop on his knees ready to start the research session that should’ve taken place all night. His mom’s old books are already stacked next to his bed, so it’s easy to reach and pull them close. His homework gets pushed to the side, unimportant and not really one of his priorities right now.

“This will be very awkward in school. I see us getting consecutive sittings with the counselor for the foreseeable future. How is this my life? What did I do? And please, universe? Don’t answer that.”

He sinks into research, finally managing to focus on the task at hand. Everything else around him becomes unimportant, less present. So, of course, he loses time.

The second his window slides open he jerks up so violently that he can’t keep the laptop on his knees or himself in the bed. And of course, he cracks his head against the edge of the bed frame. It hurts, stings even, and makes him groan out loud.

Then he looks up and freezes.

Derek’s standing in the middle of the room. Less towering than Stiles remembers from when it happened the first time, but still just as glowering as he was back then. Stiles almost grins when Derek sniffs slowly and turns around, searching the room with all his available senses.

This is probably one of the few times Stiles is able to observe the werewolf without having to hide the fact.

Derek’s less bulky now that he’s a beta again. Personally, Stiles thinks it suits him better. He looks good, he always has, but the lack of overbearing power makes him more human, and maybe even gentler.

The leather jacket is missing and instead, Derek’s just wearing a sweater and loose jeans. It’s such an unusual look that Stiles’ eyes linger for a second longer than they’d usually do.

Derek looks more grown up. Less like the power-hungry douche who could fit in at high school.

And suddenly Stiles realizes that Derek actually did grow up during the last couple of months, he grew up right alongside Stiles and learned how to take life in ways that meant survival and maybe finding happiness instead of self-sacrificing everything good that happened to him.

But then Derek turns, green eyes reflecting a sadness Stiles has never seen before, and then he just stands there, looking so very young that it takes Stiles’ breath away for a second. This has been happening a lot lately as well, Derek being able to shut Stiles up, in a good way, by simply being him.

Stiles’ is stupidly proud of the fact that his room all clean and neat today.

Derek’s cell starts playing something Stiles can only vaguely identify as wolves’ howls and judging from the cringe the wolf lets show, it’s either Cora’s or Peter’s idea of a joke.

“What,” is growled into the cell. And the growl is reassuring. So much that Stiles realizes how fucked up he is that he smiles at hearing it.

“No. He’s not here, Scott,” Derek stops, listens to what Scott is saying, slightly growls again and then sighs. Werewolf hearing would be really useful right now.

“I don’t know. The Sheriff said he was fine, so he must have been home.”

“Right here, Sourwolf,” Stiles says out or reflex and grins when Derek looks like the sourwolf he used to be. The look still sends wave of excitement through Stiles for reasons he yet to identify.

“Really, Scott? How am I supposed to know why our cell phones don’t work? I’ll keep on looking,” Derek answers with a scowl.

“Want me to pinky-swear on it, Scott?” Derek as asks in such a deadpan voice that Stiles stares for a second.

It shouldn’t work but Stiles pictures Scott’s bitch face and laughs out loud. For the first time since this started, and there’s only a slight trace of hysteria in it.

He snorts when Derek ends the call with a vicious tap on the screen and imagines the wolf wishes he could have slammed it shut just for effect. Derek takes another look around the room, eyes again halting at the spot where Stiles is still sitting on the floor against his bed.

“Couldn’t you, for once in your life, stay out of trouble?” Derek almost sighs, frown etched deeply into his face, shoulders hunched forward.

When Derek turns to leave, panic starts to set in and Stiles, out of pure desperation, scrambles and ends up throwing his cell phone - right at the wall next to the werewolf’s head. The second it leaves Stiles’ immediate vicinity it seems to become at least audible to the werewolf again. It connects with an audible thud with the wall and Stiles flinches. Then he snorts at the confused look on Derek’s face.
 
Derek is looking around, a little wildly and sort of lost. His eyes are everywhere and settle on nothing. So still invisible to Derek then. No means of communication. This spell is really very intricate and very, very confusing. Stiles hates it with a passion.
The cell phone lies innocently on Stiles’ carpet, silently mocking both of them. After a minute or five Derek moves again, this time towards the phone – all calculated and calm.

The second Derek’s fingers connect with it, something flashes and Derek’s half across the room, eyes shifted and fangs dropped. The growl would be funny if the situation wasn’t so sad. Stiles sighs.

The he grabs his phone, opens a new message and wonders all over again why he hadn’t thought to try it in the first place. There are enough people close to them who could get into contact with the pack. Since his dad’s asleep and Mrs. McCall on shift he can only think of one person.

And that person apparently knows about all the supernatural crap going on and decided to stay out of it. Clever decision, Stiles thinks and hits send on the message praying that it goes through.

Derek seems to be waiting for whatever will happen next.

Stiles really doesn’t laugh out loud when Derek jumps at the beep of an incoming text from his own phone. Really, he doesn’t laugh. He’s just choking on his breath.

It holds the panic at bay.

“Shut up,” Derek mumbled. If Stiles didn’t know better and didn’t have the sun tinting his room in a soft glow, he’d think Derek’s blushing a little. But Derek doesn’t blush so it must be the sun.

Stiles really does laugh out loud, this time, at the comical look on the wolf’s face when he reads the message.

“Really, Stiles?” The words are growled the way Stiles has come to associated with this certain werewolf and it shouldn’t surprise him this much that it calms him down. Stiles doesn’t really know when it happened but somewhere along the way he started to feel safe, even protected, around Derek.

“Well, it’s not like anything else would have worked. And I’m pretty sure using the truth wouldn’t have let me send the damn text in the first place. Because, you know, it’s magic preventing us from communicating in any way. So shut up yourself and read on, Sourwolf.”

Much to Stiles’ surprise Derek does, then snort-growls a second later. It’s such an unexpected sound that Stiles is gaping open-mouthed. He’s damn glad Derek can’t see him impersonating a stranded fish. But then he’s just so damn happy that it worked and that Danny’s apparently only marginally connected to the pack and thus to be able to send messages along.

All he sent to Danny was a plea to tell Derek that he’s fine, that he’s home and that he’s just not allowed to text him. He can only imagine what Danny actually wrote. Not to mention that he kind of begged Danny not to ask questions and just help him out.

Stiles’ phone beeps.

Derek’s leaning against the windowsill now, having put distance between them. It makes Stiles uncomfortable for reasons he doesn’t want to think about. Derek’s phone is still out and he’s looking at the spot where Stiles is sitting expectantly.

Danny forwarded Stiles the text. The message itself is innocent, Danny’s comments attached to it however are not.

Stiles says he’s fine, not allowed to text you. No idea what’s going on but if this gets dirty, I’m out.

A second text pops up on his screen and Stiles rolls his eyes.

How long do I have to play messenger between you and your boyfriend? Also, is this Miguel I’m texting for you?

Stiles is kinda lost as what to answer to that. Danny knows who Derek is now. But then maybe he likes making Stiles uncomfortable.

In the end, Stiles sends “Yes” in reply. After thinking about it, he asks Danny one more favor and hopes that Scott actually follows instructions this time around.

When he looks up from his screen, Derek has settled onto his bed, frowning deeply at his own cell.

“I’ll stay here. Until Scott’s back with Deaton,” Derek says softly while putting his phone away. The silence that settles in the room is less awkward than Stiles would have thought.

He watches Derek taking in his room, taking in the things that have changed since the last time he was here. Stiles, for the first time in a long time, wonders if he’s changed a lot or if people recognize that he’s changed at all.

Then he looks at his room himself.

His trinkets, leftover memories from his childhood, are gone and stowed in a box in his closet. He can’t remember when he packed them away, though, just knows that he did. There are fewer posters around, new ones, more graphic novel and less comic. And it’s surprisingly clean and organized. It’s only his desk that looks like the chaotic universe it’s always been. Now, though, most of the papers and books refer to the supernatural and only some of them are real homework.

When had he changed so much that he started to realize it himself?

Derek settles deeper into to the pillows that are stacked against the bed’s headboard, closes his eyes and projects the picture of relaxation. Stiles knows it isn’t true. The werewolf is as alert as he can be, but sort of tries to provide Stiles with a calm atmosphere, less likely to induce panic attacks.

Stiles remembers that awkward talk right after Nogitsune, when he’d accidentally stumbled into Derek’s loft still confused and drained from an attacked caused by a nightmare.

Derek, and the rest of the pack now, know how to make stressful situations less stressful. This is Derek applying one of the techniques.

“Thank you,” Stiles says. It just feels like it’s the right thing to say. He is grateful for Derek being there and for staying.

Suddenly he wants to touch Derek, just a hand on his arm or shoulder, just to ground himself some more. But he can’t even move a single finger towards the other man. He just can’t. Stiles is physically unable to reach out and touch.

It’s frustrating as hell.

Stiles isn’t sure if he imagines it, but Derek’s eyes seem to flash for a second. Then Derek seems to straighten minutely and turn to watch the door with a look Stiles can only describe as waiting for prey.

He shivers but this time it’s not because he’s cold.

A second later Scott, followed by Deaton, enters his room. The Sheriff is hot on their heels. Stiles hadn’t even heard the doorbell.

 

+++++

 

To say that Stiles is slightly overwhelmed with everything would be an understatement. Trying to tell everyone present what happened turns out to be a long winded process not to mention so painful that at the first try, Stiles actually blacks out.

 

He’s really tired of waking up in pain. He’s also tired of seeing his dad’s worried face hovering above him after waking up. The Nogitsune provided him with that sight often enough.

He barely registered a frantic Scott being calmed down by Deaton but sees Derek’s clenched jaw much clearer.

The entire situation would be hilarious if he’d been in the right mind to really think about the stuff that comes out of his mouth. But since he’s more focused on not subjecting himself to pain so intense he see stars, his dad and everyone else has to live with him using Men in Black descriptions and graphic novel outlines to tell his tale of a late night out in the woods.

Deaton, though, seems to be entirely too proficient in getting Stiles weird metaphors. So he’s only a little mad at the man for not answering his calls, since apparently even an emissary needs sleep sometimes.

Scott’s looks flip between amusement, anxious excitement and angry disapproval. He tries not to interrupt Deaton translating all the weird things coming out of Stiles’ mouth, but Stiles can see it’s hard. There are questions in his eyes, but Scott holds back from asking leaving Stiles feeling guilty all over again.

Stiles’ dad isn’t any different, just with a tad more anger mixed in as well as worry.

Deaton only looks curious, way more than Stiles likes, and asks for the books. Stiles hands them over reluctantly. Deaton only wants to see the spell, though, and not take the books away, but Stiles still feels very protective of them.

Derek is watching him, or more like watching the spot Stiles is standing in, face blank and eyes shuttered. The werewolf looks unmoved but Stiles thinks that far from the truth. He suddenly wishes he could read Derek better.

The need to know what the werewolf’s thinking and feeling is like a sudden wave crashing in over his head. Something deep in his chest flares up, tugging at a string of feeling, a knowledge Stiles undoubtedly knows has been there for years and is only now slowly unraveling.

Derek blinks, face minutely changing, before it settles back into its former blank mask. Did Derek feel, that, too?

“It does sound like you came across a warlock. I’ll look into it. And… well, these books indeed belonged to your mother, Stiles,” Deaton breaks the silence that had spread across the room like a thick mist. “It’s been a while since I saw them and even longer since they’ve been used. I should’ve figured she’d keep them close for you to find. They’re an heirloom after all. Guardianship is handed down to the next Spark. Seems like you are, after all, the next in line. ”

Stiles can only blink at the vet. He knows Deaton didn’t tell him everything when he came to him for help after the fire-balls-on-his-hands-incident. This, though, this is really more of a surprise than he likes. Deaton clearly knows more about his mom, what she was, what she could do, and yet he still seems only willing to share a few bits instead of the entire story.

“Dude… that… couldn’t you have told me that before I started to use magic? Would have been nice to have more information. Also, guardianship? What?”

Deaton doesn’t even roll his eyes but the way he looks at Stiles heavily implies that he would if he wasn’t above such action.

“I didn’t deem it the right time. You were only just discovering that having a Spark means being able to use magic in different forms. With the residue still left behind, I wasn’t entirely sure if this was what affected the spark or if your full abilities were waking up due to the possession. I’m sorry to have misjudged the situation. And I am sorry that this has gotten out of hand. I will, of course, do my utmost to figure what exactly has happened and how to undo it. We do need to figure out if the warlock’s wards hold any meaning and if they can help undo the spell. Or if we need to find other way.”

Stiles nods, not really able to answer or to come up with a witty retort. This simply goes right over his head. He does realize, tough, that Deaton never answered his question about the guardianship and wonders what that’s all about. He’ll have to have a serious talk with the other man later.

The Sheriff doesn’t wait for later though and demands answers right then and there. It makes Stiles very proud of his dad’s inquiring mind. Maybe he’ll get answers through him instead.

“Wait a second… Just let me get this straight. My son can use magic now? You knew about it and didn’t think of telling me?” His father asks, demanding answers.

“I didn’t think it was my place to tell. Claudia explicitly instructed me not to until the time was right. I tend to keep my promises,” Deaton says, tone less relaxed and sharper than before. This is clearly a sensitive topic for him as well.

For a moment it seems like the Sheriff wants to go on arguing, body tense and eyes solely focused on Deaton. But something seems to click, and whatever it is holds him back. So in the end he just sighs, shaking his head and turns to Stiles.

“And you… You took a spell out of these books you found while searching the attic. Books that belonged to your mother and which you remembered seeing as a child. Then you went on to use that spell, without knowing anything about it, only to have some kind of witch – warlock – whatever, turn it around and use it on you. Am I following this correctly so far?”

Stiles ducks his head, feels himself grow warm under the scrutiny, and shrugs, nodding assent to his dad’s question. Hearing it all laid out like this, he has to admit that it was a rather reckless and maybe even a little stupid.

“Uh… yeah. Sort of.”

“Hell, Stiles… And this spell? It makes you invisible to the pack, causes you an excruciating amount of pain if your try to talk to them and last, but not least, it connects you the Nementon even more than you already were? By the way we should really talk about how I had no idea you were still connected to that damn tree.”

Stiles can only nod this time.

He’s exhausted, even more than before. They’ve been at it for hours, trying to figure what exactly happened without causing him to writhe in pain the second he even thinks about trying to explain it.

After that, and going over things a few more times, Deaton thankfully has ideas about the spell the man in black used to twist the one Stiles took from his mom’s books.

The Sheriff, on the other hand, just looks resigned now. “Only you, Stiles. Really, only you. I’m not even asking what you thought you were doing because I know there’s no good answer. I also know that those books… your mother would’ve wanted you to have them. But she also would’ve wanted you to use them with guidance,” the Sheriff adds when Stiles doesn’t say anything.

This makes Stiles look up, wide-eyed and open-mouthed, surprise shining through. “You knew? About the books, what they are? You knew? About… about me?”

Stiles knows he should try to stay calm and he can hear his voice reaching dangerous levels for werewolf ears, but he can’t help it. This entire situation is sort of overwhelming. He sees Scott slink out of the room behind his dad, Deaton following as well. He’s not sure where Derek is but he that really isn’t his concern right now.

“Stiles,” his dad sighs, and crosses the room to sit down next to him on the bed, where Stiles is almost curled up and still incredibly cold.

“I never really knew much beyond the fact that your mother was something special, something that I couldn’t explain. So I didn’t try,” his dad says calmly, pulling him closer with a hand on Stiles’ shoulder and sighs again. This will be a long talk, it seems.

“I know she loved you very much and wanted to protect you at all costs. When she said that the time wasn’t right, I didn’t ask for what but trusted her. When she said she’d teach you when you were ready, I was okay with it. When she said that the books were for you but didn’t tell me why, I didn’t ask because I knew it had something to do with why she was special. And I think she wouldn’t have told me everything anyway, just to protect me. The two of you, you’re very similar in that aspect.”

Stiles feels his breath hitch a little, because his dad is right, he’d do anything – everything – to protect him.

“But then… she didn’t have the chance to tell me anymore. And when Talia agreed to keep everything Claudia knew for herself until you’d be old enough to be told, well I was happy to go along. It was so soon after…” He trails off, quiet for a moment, before speaking again. “I’m sorry, Stiles. I didn’t know what it meant, I still don’t. But I’ll help you figure it out. I’m your father, it’s my job to help you find your way. No matter what.”

Stiles hears the words and reacts accordingly,nodding and hugging his dad. But his mind was focused on the tiny gasp that came from across the room at the mention of Talia Hale’s name. So Derek is still in the room.

“Thanks, Dad. I just have to… I need a minute here. Please?”

The Sheriff leaves but not before he draws Stiles into another hug. He pulls back and then looks at Derek for a second. Stiles doesn’t know what that means but he’s willing to overlook it for now.

Silence settles in the room all over again, but this time it’s more tense, though, and slightly awkward.

Derek’s still leaning against the windowsill, motionless and more like the creeper-wolf than he’s been in a while.

“I remember you now. I… There are some books my mom had. They might have more information,” Derek says without really looking anywhere but his shoes. “Please don’t… just don’t get yourself hurt any more than you already are. I can smell the pain.”

With that the wolf’s gone, out the window, leaving Stiles sitting there gaping. Derek remembers him now? He can smell the pain? How? What the hell does that even mean? Everything’s getting more confusing by the second, making it hard for Stiles to figure out which problem to tackle first.

 

++++

 

The rest of the weekend sort of flies by.

Stiles get his homework done, helps his dad unearth the rest of his mother’s possessions from the attic, which is an experience neither of them wants to go through ever again, and finally ends it with a few hours of mindless videogames and surfing YouTube.

Deaton does actually get around explaining a little more about Stiles’ magical heritage, but it’s still not enough to help him start figuring out what the warlock meant about him being powerful or about the bond that apparently exists.

Stiles thinks Deaton doesn’t really know everything about it either and he tries to get information as they speak, scrambling along just the way everyone else is. This does make him seem more human and less mystified mage.It also makes Stiles snort every so often because Deaton not knowing things is just too weird of a concept.

He never tells Deaton about his dreams. The ones reminding him of an imaginary friend, who now seems more and more real. He never asks Deaton to clarify what the warlock could have meant about the bond, but he thinks he’ll probably figure that out on his own.

One Sunday evening Scott tries to talk to Stiles but is by far less empathic than Derek, so it sort of ends in minor break-downs on both sides. It’s more sad than funny but Stiles ends up laughing tears anyway. He’s pretty sure his frustration with the situation doesn’t help matters much.

The foreign magic still feels like a tight shirt surrounding him. The call of the Nemeton is stronger than it ever was before, which makes it a little bit harder to figure out if it’s the warlock’s dark magic or Stiles’ own that thrums relentless under his skin.

 

++++

 

School is weird the following week. People start to whisper the second day Stiles is ignored by his friends. The rumors are hilarious since he’s still sitting with them during lunch and generally keeps close to them.

He forgets about the ‘no touching’ rule halfway through Wednesday, reaches out because he wants to ask Scott something and ends up writhing on the floor of their Home-Ec room. He’s just lucky that it’s only Scott and Lydia around after the free period and no one else.

So Stiles flees into the closest bathroom, locks himself into a cabin and sinks onto the cold tiles on the floor. Tears are slowly tracking down his cheeks, his breath is hitched and he can’t really see anything clearly.

The snot running down his face after an hour of not holding back, giving in to everything weighing him down, is simply disgusting. He ends up calling his dad, telling him he’ll skip and makes his way to Derek’s loft undetected.

The loft is empty but feels like the only safe place right now.

The last two days of the school week are less dramatic but nothing short of annoying. He misses his friends, misses being able to ramble about stupid things to people who indulge him, maybe roll their eyes or sometimes even participate. But no one in school seems to be inclined to even come close to him. And with the kind of reputation they have, Stiles understands that people are suspicious, maybe even fear them but it still would be nice if people would actually just say something to him once in a while.

He really feels invisible, not only to his pack, to the entire school. They just can’t interact and it sucks. It sucks so much that he ends up doing research in the library or at Derek’s place for the rest of the week when the pack takes to showing up at his house. The Sheriff seems amused, almost like he loves functioning as a translator between his son and his friends.

Stiles, though, thinks the level of hilariousness doesn’t even reach the level of his annoyance. So he flees, during school and afterward. He switches between doing research in the library; spending time at Deaton’s going over spells and trying to reign in his spark, which seems to be eager to escape the restrains of the ‘other’ magic.

He tries to spend time with Scott, but realizes pretty quickly that when his best friend doesn’t know he’s around, his activities are less than best-friend-suitable. That incident and the subsequent discussion with Melissa when he crashed into her on his hasty way out of the McCall residence are something he doesn’t want to think about ever again.

He knows not to try with Lydia or Kira and doesn’t even want to figure out what Malia does in her free time. He knows they’re all working with Deaton to figure out where the warlock is and what he really wants.

Instead, he tries to find ways to entertain himself but ends up mostly annoying his dad and Parrish at the station when he can’t focus on research anymore. He tries not to cave in and follow the call of the Nemeton out into the woods. He’s far too aware of what’s waiting out there and he knows he won’t be ready to face it alone. He won’t be so stupid again.

Stiles keeps having dreams, normal ones interspersed with oddly prophetic ones and nightmares. . Most of those dreams seem more and more like suppressed memories than dreams, even though he can’t figure out if that’s the case or not. It does make him start to wonder why he stopped having D around, why it was necessary to have an imaginary friend and a wolf following him when he had Scott all the time. It doesn’t make much sense but Stiles doesn’t have enough information to delve deeper into it.

The rest of his time he spends in Derek’s loft and finds amusement in torturing Peter when the older man is present. His best source of entertainment right now is watching Peter curse over randomly switched on kitchen devices and the volume on his TV turned down low when no one else is around.

It’s even funnier to watch Peter complain to Derek about it. “This place is haunted,” Peter snarls after he’s switched off the kitchen faucet the tenth time in a row.

“Come again?” Derek grunts, hauling what looks like crate full of ancient books through the door of the loft. There’s dust floating around him in the sunlight filtering through the huge-ass windows the loft sports. Derek looks almost ethereal for a second.

It makes Stiles stumble over nothing from where he’s inching his way from the kitchen into the open space of the loft’s living area. His breath catches at the sight and then he stops dead.

Because no, this is not happening. He will not follow that train of thought, not right now. No. Seriously, no… just no. There’s a time and place for everything, and this? This is not the time or place.

And yet, seconds later, he’s literally quaking over Derek’s biceps, visible through his too-tight shirt, stretched over his abs. Derek’s carrying the crate to the huge table under the windows, hefting it up before placing it carefully down on the table’s surface. It’s such a casual display of strength, such a demonstration of ability that Stiles can only stand there and stare.

It’s unfair, really. He’s got a hundred other things to care about to, to worry about. And so this … this kind of epiphany doesn’t really do anything for him, other than push him toward the edge of yet another panic attack again.

Not cool. This is not cool at all.

Sure, he knows Derek’s attractive. You’d have to be blind not to see it. But Derek’s never been the most forthcoming or nicest person around Stiles, so there’s no reason for his brain to just flip a switch and suddenly realize that Derek might be different from what he thought.

The circumstances, from the beginning on, sure as hell didn’t help with developing a relationship based on trust and maybe friendship but things have shifted lately. When he thinks about it, Stiles has to admit that he’d sought out Derek and his knowledge recently more due to the fact that he actually wanted to spend time with him and not just to seek information.

Stiles isn’t even sure how to go about that. He only knows that ogling the other man while he isn’t even aware of it might not be the best idea, considering the trust issues that are clearly present.

“Haunted, Derek,” Peter’s aggravated voice brings Stiles back to the present situation and he has to suppress an inelegant snort at the look on Peter’s face that says he’s so done with everyone’s shit right now.

“Sure, Peter,” Derek answers in this deadpan voice that is so completely him.

“Seriously. I don’t know how often I had to turn the TV off or the faucets in every goddamn room that has any in the last hour alone. And it’s been happening for days.”

“Ghosts don’t exist, Peter.”

“Right. Okay, then you won’t mind me moving downstairs and letting you deal with it. Because, I sure as hell won’t subject myself to it any longer.”

With that, Peter swaggers out of the loft. Stiles thinks he would have stamped his feet if that wasn’t so immature and if he didn’t have a reputation to keep.

“Should have asked you to do that sooner. I’ve wanted him to leave for weeks,” Derek says and looks exactly at the space Stiles would be if he was visible to the werewolf.

“But really, Stiles? Isn’t that a little childish?”

“Aww, come on man, it’s the only real entertainment here. I can’t even talk to anyone. And don’t think I didn’t realize I’m just as invisible to Peter as I am to the rest of the pack.”

Derek just shakes his head, walks into the kitchen and emerges a minute later with a cup of hot chocolate and a bottle of water. He places the cup on the end table where Stiles had settled in the meantime and then walks toward the crate, opening the bottle for himself.

Stiles tries not to stare at the way Derek’s back muscles move beneath his shirt.

He switches the TV on again and focuses on the documentary about wild cats instead. The fact that Derek now knows he prefers hot chocolate when he feels out of his depth is something Stiles tries not to read too much into.

Hours later, after the documentary’s been switched out for a re-run of Firefly and the hot chocolate for tea, Derek sits down next to Stiles on the couch. On his knees rest a huge tome and a fresh bottle of beer on the table.

The sun’s gone down, the loft is bathed in the yellowish glow of the lamp behind the couch and the flickering from the TV. Peter hasn’t been back, Stiles dad has only called once to check in and Scott three times to make sure everything is alright.

They sit like this for a while, Derek reading and Stiles mostly engrossed with what’s happening onscreen. But sometimes he catches himself sneaking glimpses at Derek. This is probably the first time they’ve spent hours together without arguing over suicidal plans, trying to figure out how to defeat evil and save their friends or pushing each other to their limits.

It’s peaceful to such a degree that Stiles realizes is relaxing. He can relax in Derek’s presence and probably has been doing so for a while now without ever acknowledging it. He wishes he could tell Derek. Suddenly he wants to tell him and feels the vice around his chest tightening.

He chokes on air, tries to fight the urge to reach out to Derek, to touch him, to try and talk to him. It’s harder than he expected, trying to stamp down on this desire to just say something to Derek directly.

“Calm down, Stiles. Please. I don’t know what’s going on but please, calm down.”

Derek’s voice brings him back from the edge. Just hearing him talk, acknowledging that he knows Stiles is there, makes his heart skip and his stomach flutter. This hasn’t happened before. It shouldn’t work like this. It shouldn’t be this easy. Derek shouldn’t be able to feel it, to know what’s going on with him, between them.

They aren’t this close. They weren’t even on the way to be this close. But there’s this familiarity between them now, one that’s never been there before. Even though they can talk or can’t express much, it feels like their bond growing stronger. And it’s confusing as hell.

Stiles suddenly wonders if his magic is playing tricks on them and if this is connected to the Nemeton as well. It hurts to think this way, but no matter how hard he tries, there isn’t any other explanation either.

“Let me tell you about the pack Guardian. It’s a tale my mom used to tell us. It’s also here in the books. And maybe… maybe it’ll make things clearer,” Derek says softly into the semi-dark loft, not looking at Stiles, not that it would work anyway.
Stiles can’t help himself, he’s curious now. He silences the TV as a sign that he’s listening.

Derek closes the tome, places it besides the couch, and then settles more comfortably into the cushions, as if this will take a while. Stiles copies, him if only to have a safe haven if things get complicated again.

 

++++++++

20,000 leagues away, catch up to you on the same day

The wolf is there, watching. It sits between the trees, silent and not moving. It’s dark fur a mixture of red-browns and blue-blacks shimmer in the sunlight where it hits the massive body.

It’s still a predator waiting for its prey. Silent, hovering, and watchful. Its mere presence emits danger, calling out to anyone not come close, not to attempt to hunt where it has set it’s sights on.

But then it flops down onto it’s side and rolls around in the golden leaves of fall. Stiles lets out a giggling laugh before sprinting toward it.

But the more he tries to reach the wolf, the faster he runs, the further away it seems. He’s running, running as fast as he little legs are able to. Without knowing how, he suddenly knows D’s in danger, suddenly sees the shadow behind the wolf, who’s still rolling joyfully through the grass, oblivious and about to… about to die. The wolf shifts then, turns into the boy that was there before. Then turns back into the wolf, bigger now, and stronger, but still so very unaware of the danger.

Stiles starts yelling, screaming, but not a single sound leaves his mouth. He screams and screams and screams but the wolf doesn’t hear, doesn’t run.

Then suddenly, there’s blood. A lot of blood. The wolf’s fur is mated with it and Stiles still can’t reach it. He sees the wolf twitch, hind legs kicking, front paws up in the air.

And then everything falls still, the silence crashing down around him and he’s still running, scrambling along the forest floor in a desperate attempt to reach the bleeding wolf.

He knows the wolf is dead as soon as he sees its still form in the grass. He knows he’s too late but he keeps on running. Until everything fades away, leaving him alone in a white room that can only be the Nemeton’s doing. Suddenly he’s not seven anymore but seventeen. Suddenly it’s not the wolf bleeding out in the grass but his own body against the tree stump.

And then he screams again.

 

++++

 

“D! No… No. Please, no. D!”

Stiles wakes up like he did so many times over the past few months, screaming and being held tightly against his dad’s chest, a strong arm pulling him closer when he stops struggling.

“Sssshhh, it’s okay. I’m here. Nothing’s going to happen,” his dad whispers against his temple, rocking them both slowly, gently holding onto Stiles’ trembling body.

And here he thought they were over this, that he was over this.

“Okay now?” His dad asks after a few minutes of holding him.

“Yeah… fine,” he croaks, voice shot to hell and knows they both can hear the lie.

This isn’t just a simple nightmare anymore. This is the Nemeton calling out more fiercely. This is magic messing with him on levels he really doesn’t appreciate, that he can’t appreciate. He’s had his mind fucked with way too often and this is cherry on the fucking top.

“I… I’m good now… might as well get up.”

“It’s six on a Saturday morning.”

Stiles shrugs, turns a little and hugs his dad hard.

“Wouldn’t be able to sleep again anyway.”

It’s not a perfect start to a day he’d been planning to use to relax. They hadn’t made any headway with their search for the warlock or managed to come up with a reason for the Nemeton acting up again. And their search for for a solution to their communications problem proved just as elusive.

And now Stiles is just so tired of everything.

“Wanna tell me what it was about?” His dad has let him go and is now sitting on the edge of Stiles’ bed, watching him with worry in his eyes.

“Not really?” Stiles doesn’t feel like talking though he knows he should, “But…” he continues before his dad can say anything else. “But… I think it has something to do with some of the things Derek told me last night.”

“Care to explain?”

“Apparently there’s such thing as a pack guardian. Someone connected to a healthy Nemeton and a healthy pack, who works with the emissary or becomes one themselves. A Guardian has a spark, always… but he or she can have more powerful magic as well. It’s hereditary. And Talia, she had her sights set on someone before everything went to shit,” Stiles tells his dad, head nestled against his dad’s shoulder and his hands fidgeting.

“So... I guess that role would fall to you? Those books, the way your mom would meet up with Talia... “ The Sheriff stops speaking when Stiles sits up to look at him.

“Yeah, looks like it. My spark… I got it from mom. A guardian protects the magic, using it to protect the pack. And if… if I’m… that. I’m already bound to the pack. But… we aren’t sure which pack.”

“The Hales… and Scott now. Yeah, I can see that. Son, I wish I could help you with that,” the Sheriff says, honestly and a little sadly.

“I know. But believe me, dad, you not freaking out too much about it… that helps. It really, really helps.”

The Sheriff nods then, hugging Stiles again before getting up to leave.

“So, I should hold back on freaking out about you and Derek some more, huh?”

“What? Dad… no, there isn’t… what?” Stiles knows he’s shrieking but his dignity is by far and away the least important thing right now. While his dad just stands there, smiling.

“Son, you’ve spend the last week almost entirely with Derek. You talk about him constantly. And you talk in your sleep, besides the screaming. I’m neither blind nor stupid. I hope you’ll tell me about it when you’re ready,” his dad says and then steps from the room, leaving Stiles sitting there open-mouthed and shocked.

What the hell did just happened?

Stiles is still in some kind of stupor, puzzling over what his dad so casually mentioned and trying to figure out what exactly is going on between him and Derek, if there actually is anything at all, when Scott crashes into his room, breathless and a little panicked.

“Dude! Dude, wherever you are… we got him. We know where the warlock is and what he possibly might want.”

An hour later the entire pack is huddled on the couch and on cushions on the floor in Derek’s loft. Deaton and the Sheriff are there as well. Stiles tries to focus on the task of breaking the spell on him and not the fact that Derek’s sitting right next to him, as if he knows where Stiles is at any given moment.

It takes him more energy than he likes to turn his attention back to Deaton and away from Derek.

“He has been drawn in by the Nemeton and can probably feel the bad magic surrounding it. The tree hasn’t been healthy in a while,” everyone grimaces at those words, each of them thinking of what they’ve done to add to this. Allison flashes through his mind and Stiles shrinks back into the cushion behind him. His dad is watching him with worried eyes.

“The way Stiles described it, the warlock used his own powers to create a magical sphere and drew Stiles in that night. He’s probably able to listen to the whisperings of the tree. Stiles’ spark has been awake for a while, so I can only presume that the Nemeton is aware of it and of its heritage,” Deaton explains, then goes silent, looking around, waiting for someone to ask questions.

“Its heritage?” Kira asks when it becomes clear that no one knows what to say.

Deaton looks at Stiles, then at the Sheriff, asking for permission to go on. They’d told Deaton, before the rest of the pack arrived, that Derek had figured some things out.

When the Sheriff nods, the vet takes a sip from his cup of the freshly brewed tea Derek provided.

“Stiles’ mother Claudia, she had special abilities. They're handed down from generation to generation. She wasn’t a guardian but carried the ability to hand the power of guardianship down to her children. Packs, who have access to Nemetons, often have a guardian who protects both the magic and the pack. The guardian is inherently magic; they always have a spark and are usually bonded to one member of the pack.”

This time it’s Lydia who speaks up: “Stiles is a guardian.” It’s not a question, but instead a statement that shows she clearly understands what’s going on.

“That is correct, Ms. Martin. It’s just not clear to which pack Stiles is guardian of, though it seems his destiny has been forged years ago. His allegiance, however, is something only he can give.”

Scott fidgets next to Kira, as if he wants to say something. Stiles can imagine exactly what it might be. His best friend wants to make it a fact that Stiles is his guardian, but even he isn’t sure if that’s the truth. There are members of another pack present in Beacon Hills, in this loft even, and Scott knows nothing that simple anymore.

When no one says anything else, Deaton continues: “A guardian is not only groomed to protect the Nemeton’s magic, they can also be used to drain its magic. To do so, a powerful warlock first has to isolate the guardian from the pack. Then there will be a ritual. Preferably under the new moon. The sources weren’t really clear on that specific part though, I’m sorry.”

Silence reigns for an entire second before all hell breaks loose. But Stiles, though, just sits where he is, watching his pack developing one plan after the other.

In the end, it’s Derek who comes up with a rather good plan. There’s talk about a trap, a crystal Deaton can use to temporarily neutralize the warlock’s magic even though Deaton isn’t sure it’ll actually work. But what they decide to do is to circle the warlock in the clearing, the one Stiles can describe in detail, and that it will happen tonight since it’s still two days until the new moon and none of them wants to risk any other kind of ritual happening.

It’s when most of the pack has already left, after being reassured that Stiles is okay and still present, and when only the Sheriff and Derek remain, that Stiles loses it.

“Are you insane?” He turn on Derek after the door to the loft slid shut behind Scott. “Do you really think I’ll stay behind?” Because that part of plan? Stiles doesn’t agree with it, not at all.

His dad snorts at the picture they two of them are presenting, Stiles raving and Derek looking as stoic, as though they’re polar opposites. It’s not exactly a new thing, but this time it’s only because Derek has no idea what Stiles is saying to his face.

“What?” the werewolf asks confused which has the Sheriff biting his lip.

“Nothing. Just… Stiles.”

“He’s mad?”

“Oh, you have no idea, son. Mad’s not even the right word for him.” His dad’s exaggerating a little, but Stiles likes the effect it has on Derek because there’s pink spreading over the wolf’s cheeks, which shouldn’t look as adorable as it does.

His dad’s words from the morning spring to mind and Stiles can’t look away anymore. He’s so close to Derek that he knows if the wolf could see and smell him, he’d be across the room right now.

“Stiles… it’s not safe. He’s already managed to lay a spell on you.”

“Only because I wasn’t prepared! Come on. Deaton and I can prepare now. I could actually have a chance when I know how to use my magic right,” Stiles argues, barely aware that his dad is translating in the background.

“We still can’t see you, Stiles. We can’t protect you!”

“Deaton can!”

“Not on his own. He’s not a warlock. When will you listen to reason?” Derek actually growls but Stiles doesn’t realize it, too caught up in his rant.

“How about when you start making sense?” He’s aware that he says it with more force than necessary, loud and angry. Then he recoils slightly when Derek growls and is suddenly right in his face.

“I always make sense.”

“No, you seriously don’t. You puff out your chest, deliver demands and think they’re the only right thing to do. All caveman and the like,” Stiles knows he’s being unfair because Derek hasn’t been like that in a long time. But he’s aiming for something that takes away this strangled feeling he has inside of him, like he needs to get even closer to Derek to feel better.

“Because they are.” Derek shouts back, petulantly, like he knows it’s stupid but can’t help himself.

“Not always. Dude! I can help. I know how to use magic to protect the pack.” It’s not entirely true, but Stiles is grasping for every little argument like straws.

“Yeah, because that worked out so well before, didn’t it? Stiles, that man is a warlock and he latched onto the spell you used, reinforced it, and then used your own magic against you. Do you not realize that he could actually kill you next time?”

They’re so close that Stiles can feel Derek’s breath on his face, can feel the warmth of the werewolf’s body seeping into his and he doesn’t want to move away. Even with the tension between them, Stiles wants to move even closer, and he’s about to when his dad’s pronounced cough breaks the spell and Stiles falls back onto the couch behind him, head dizzy and heart pounding.

“Boys? You are aware that you’ve been yelling directly at each other there, without me translating? Right?”

Derek blinks then, confused and as if he’s just coming out of a trance. It’s such an adorable look on him that Stiles smiles, even knowing how foolish he looks right now. His dad coughs again.

“Huh?” Derek says, all growly and deep and very confused. “I could see him just now. Could hear him, too. But not really. It was like he was under water.”

Derek looks at the Sheriff then and frowns.

“He was yelling at me about being a caveman, right?”

The Sheriff laughs out loud, shaking his head he answers: “Yes. That he was. Question is, why could you suddenly see him then and can’t now?”

“It’s probably because of the bond.”

“The bond?” Stiles’ dad asks, sounding as confused as Stiles feels. He already suspected that the bond he has as a guardian isn’t with Scott, but he thought it being Derek would just be wishful thinking and, with his luck, it would end up being Peter. Stiles shudders.

“Yes. The bond between a guardian and a member of the pack he’s bound to. Deaton said the spell was modified. I’m not really sure what Stiles was trying to say with all his metaphors, but maybe the bond is the way to get around the spell. And maybe highly emotional situations sort of force the bond, make it stronger,” Derek says, sounding a little unsure but not surprised.

It figures that when Stiles’ most important way of expressing himself is very limited, Derek steps in and actually starts using words.

Choose one, though, to talk to. Maybe they’ll listen in the end. Oh, but I guess he will. As bonded as you are. But then, you are so clueless.

He’s bonded to Derek.

“Oh fuck,” Stiles hides his face in his hands and doesn’t dare to look at his dad, who lets out a little laugh, but doesn’t say anything.

“Sir?”

“I think I’ll let you boys figure it out on your own. But let me know what comes out of it, I do want to know if my son’s stumbling into life threatening danger again. I, for once, want to have the chance to help out.”

Derek nods at the Sheriff’s words and Stiles, head still buried in his hands, raises one to wave at his dad.

“I’ll call you… if I haven’t died of embarrassment.”

“Stop being a drama queen. Also, no dirty business, he’s still only seventeen,” his dad calls over his shoulder as he leaves.

Stiles hears Derek choke and can’t stay hidden any longer. He looks up and laughs out loud at the bug-eyed look Derek’s still directing at the closed door. His dad seems to have a penchant for saying the most embarrassing things in the most dire of situations.

Bonded. He and Derek are bonded. How did this happen?

“When we were young,” Derek says as if he’s heard Stiles again. But Stiles thinks it’s only because Derek actually knows him and knows what kind of questions he’d ask.

“I remember your mom coming around with you, when you were just a baby, not long after you’d been born. I remember knowing you were pack, that you belonged to us, to me. I remember climbing into your car seat, wolfed out. Full wolf, not just beta form. I don’t know how I could do it back then, I hadn’t been able to since before I hid puberty. But I remember wanting to protect you.”

Derek walks over into the kitchen, setting up a new pot of water for hot chocolate that has been out and ready to be made for a while now. Stiles follows him slowly, not wanting to just hear Derek but needing to see him as well.

The magic wrapped around him seems lighter somehow, it’s still there, still threatening, but not gripping him so hard anymore.

“I think… No, I know there was a bond then already. It’s back now. I remember your mom not wanting us to be around each other so young. She said it was too strong, too soon. I stayed away. I forgot most of it after… well, after. I couldn’t feel it anymore. But now. With this spell… I think the bond just snapped into place again.”

Derek’s stirring the hot chocolate before placing the cup right in front of Stiles again. Stiles is getting used to Derek knowing where he is in a room. And just little details like this one make it obvious how lonely it is to be him right now.

“You mean like mates?” Stiles asks, heart pounding, cheeks going red.

“There’s no such thing as mates, Stiles. We aren’t really wolves. It’s more like the Guardian is bonded to someone they’re very close to in a pack. The wolf feels itand stays close to them. It’s a choice, really. The bond. You can either acknowledge it or not. It doesn’t have to mean anything along the lines of love.”

“But it can.”

“Yes. It can.”

But the both know they aren’t there, not really. But it doesn’t seem so far away suddenly. Just the possibility of the bond going into this direction, of actually having a chance, it makes Stiles smile.

“Would that be bad? To you, I mean.” He’s not really sure what exactly he’s asking there and judging from the look on Derek’s face neither is he.

“I don’t know, Stiles. I guess not… but I don’t know.”

At least he gets an honest answer, one he appreciates. He vows to be honest with Derek as well. Because there’s something between them, whether it’s the bond or something more, they’ll just have to figure that out.

Stiles, for more than one reason, some of which only became apparent to him recently, wouldn’t actually be adverse to trying to figure out they could go into this direction.

“Is this just the bond? You feeling suddenly so familiar?”

Stiles is still afraid of the magic messing with them, of it not being their own decision anymore. He doesn’t want to be forced into anything, not even when he knows he’s starting to like Derek on a totally different level. Spending a week with him, being able to watch him in his element, being himself - it taught Stiles a lot.

“Only partially. I do… I like having you around. I like you. I did when I was a kid, too. It’s just hard to explain, but it’s not just the bond. You have to figure it out for yourself, though. I won’t force you. Of course, I won’t.”

Yeah, Derek would never do that. Especially not after everything they’ve been through.

“We’re talking!” Stiles suddenly blurts out, feeling like everything’s gotten way too heavy.

“I can see you, too. Through a veil, but you’re there,” Derek replies with a small smile. It looks good on him, Stiles thinks.

When Stiles reaches out though, the pain is unexpected in its fierceness and is gone the second he takes his hand away.

“Stiles!”

“’M good. Nothing happened. God, it’s time we got rid of this stupid spell. I need to be able to…” he almost says ‘touch you’ without really knowing why. But it’s there, the need to be close, to touch, to find something that’s been missing in his life for a long time.

“Yeah. And we’ll do that. We will get rid of it,” Derek answers, sounding confident, there’s no doubt in his voice or eyes. Stiles is standing so close now that he can’t look away. He takes in the multitude of colors in the werewolf’s eyes and realizes how much more expressive they are.

“What if we don’t? What if taking his powers away doesn’t reverse the spell? What if no one can reverse it or lift it?”

Stiles doesn’t want to sound so panicky, but he can’t help it right now. These questions have been floating around his mind ever since Scott crashed into his room with the news. And it’s not like they aren’t valid questions, either.

“We will, Stiles. Hey… hey, come on, look at us. We’re talking already. Even though it doesn’t come close to your usual inane rambling, which is a bit of a reprieve for my ears, actually” Derek says with a smirk.

“Ass.”

“We will find him, get him and make him do whatever’s necessary. But please, Stiles, at least acknowledge that it’s way too dangerous for you to be there. To be so close to someone who probably wants to drain you of your magic to revive an old tree and force it on the dark side.”

Stiles blinks.

“Did you just… really, Derek? Star Wars? Points to you for trying, tough.”

Derek laughs, deep and throaty, like Stiles has never heard before. It sounds good, chilling in a way that warms him, which is strange and weird.

“Okay. I’ll think about it,” he acknowledges and then gets up to leave. “But that doesn’t mean I won’t show up,” he manages to call out before the door closes.

Derek’s “Goddammit, Stiles” is still audible in the hallway, though, and it makes Stiles laugh out loud.

 

++++++

 

The wolf’s eyes flash blue for a moment, then he curls around him like it’s the most normal thing in the world. The blanket with the moon and stars drapes over both of them, like someone pulled it up as soon as the wolf had settled down next to Stiles.

He knows he’s not six or seven or twelve anymore but he suddenly fits underneath his favorite blanket again. It’s always been a safety blanket in more than one sense, but he never remembers where it came from.

“It was mine,” D says, cuddled close and in the spot where the wolf was only seconds ago.

“I couldn’t be there to protect you… but my mom said that things we believe in can protect us just as good. The boy smiles. His eyes flash red then, even though they aren’t supposed to.

D’s not an alpha.

But his eyes flash red again and Stiles is suddenly afraid. This is not how it’s supposed to be. But this is how it will be again.

+++++

Travel at the speed of light, thinking the same thoughts at the same time
Just send your heartbeat I'll go to the blue ocean floor

He knows it’s a stupid idea the second the warlock steps out of the blackish-blue swirls of smoke. He clearly knows that he’s surrounded and doesn’t seem to care.

Stiles and Deaton had come up with a counter spell, to bind the warlock’s magic to the crystal, allowing them to at least try and force him to break the dark magic holding Stiles captive.

Only, the second the warlock raises an eyebrow at him, he knows he won’t have the time to even think about using the spell. He sees it happening in slow motion, he watches as the warlock raising his hand and then points it toward Scott.

“He’s the alpha, right? You’re in his pack. And he still can’t talk to you or sense you. Pathetic, really. I thought by now he’d gotten through to you. Well, at least that's better for me, I guess,” the warlock announces.

And Stiles suddenly knows they have an advantage, one the warlock created himself. The warlock’s attention is still focused on Scott, who’s now standing in the middle of the clearing instead of hidden away behind a line of trees.

The rest of the pack stays where they are, though, as do Deaton and his dad, something Stiles is insanely grateful. He doesn't hide, though, he trudges up right next to Scott, trying to project defeat and dejection.

It seems to work, at least for the second Stiles needs to reach out and push Scott out of the direct line of fire and call out for Derek.

The pain is instantaneous, blinding, paralyzing.

Stiles first sinks to his knees, gasping and clutching at his chest to get the invisible vice off but failing as he knew he would. He feels the spell intended for Scott rush over them into nothingness, grazing his hair just a fraction of a second, but it's long enough to make him smell the singed tips of his hair. Then he collapses into a heap, clutching his head and screaming in pain.

He hears Derek, feels it the second he throws the crystal Deaton had provided but refused to touch due to magical transference. He hears the warlock shout, cursing and feels the pop in the air when he vanishes.

Scott is still too close, accidentally steps even closer to where Stiles is curled into himself, making him scream even more before a loud, almost feral, growl puts an end to it.

Then there’s only silence, the ringing in his head deafening every other sound. The pain’s subsiding slowly but his body doesn’t acknowledge that, instead it shuts down and sends him into blissful blackness.

The last thing he hears is his dad telling Derek to be careful – with what he doesn’t even know anymore.

 

++++++

 

He wakes up in phases, groggy and aching all over.

He’s in his own room, his own bed, with the moon blanket nestled beneath his head. It’s almost as important as his special pillow, so his dad must've been really worried about him, because he only gets it out when Stiles is down with a cold or sick.

The first time he becomes aware of his surroundings, his dad and Derek are in the room, settled into chairs by Stiles’ desk and talking low.

“I remember you being over with Talia, getting Stiles away from everything. I remember when it ended and he started to believe you were an imaginary friend. I’m sorry, Derek. We shouldn’t have let that happen.”

“No. Please don’t. It’s okay and it probably was better at first. We can’t change it now. We can only try and protect him the way we should have all along… Deaton and I.”

“He likes you.”

Stiles wants to groan out loud, wants to throw something at his dad, because this is really not the right time for this conversation. Also, why does his dad know more about his feelings for Derek than Stiles himself seems to. It's kind of freaking him out, a little.

D. Derek. D. It was all real, it was always real. It actually happened. Derek is D. Derek has been there for him for way longer than Stiles ever realized.

“I… I do, too.”

“I know that, Derek. I know you’ll look out for him. Still, seventeen.”

“Yes, sir.”

Stiles wants to laugh hysterically at his dad’s voice and Derek’s as well. is But at the same time, it's definitely not funny at all.

The next time he wakes, there’s a warm body close to him in the bed, moon blanket equally distributed between Stiles’ head and Derek’s cheek where it’s mushed into the fabric right next to Stiles.

Derek’s so close and the need to touch is suddenly overwhelming. He can still feel the dark magic, feels as it flares up, but this time it's far less severe than it was just a few hours earlier. And so he reaches out, slow but sure. He settles his hand against the sliver of skin peeking out of the t-shirt Derek's wearing.

Stiles feels the warm skin under his fingers, the soft hair at the back of Derek’s neck and lets his hand rest there. Muscles tense before they relax minutely. Derek sighs almost inaudibly, then opens his eyes.

Stiles is so close now that he’s almost plastered to the wolf’s front. They have never been this close before, not without one of them being either severely injured and about to die or in the middle of a panic attack. They’ve never been this close out of their own volition and Stiles thinks Derek might need this as much as he does.

It feels right. It feels like the one thing he needs right now. Looking into Derek’s eyes, colors swirling and not settling on just one but many, Stiles knows it’s really not just the bond between them. This, whatever it is, has really been in the making for a long time.

His heart beats wildly, skipping every other beat only to add some more a second later. There’s a small smile starting to show on Derek’s lips. And Stiles wants to close the tiny distance between them, he wants to feel that smile against his own mouth.

The fact that he’s actually touching Derek without crumbling down in pain registers just about then.

“Dude! Touching! All the touching going on here and no pain!”

“Stiles,” Derek sighs but there’s a fondness in the tone that has Stiles grinning kind of goofily.

“And the hearing my voice. This is awesome. Oh admit it, you’ve missed my voice, Sourwolf.” Stiles knows his grin is audible.

“Absolutely not.”

“Won’t admit it or haven’t missed it?” Stiles can’t help it. He’s missed bantering with Derek. It’s a little like a drug. He has to rile Derek up at least once a day to feel alive. It’s not like Derek seems to mind.

He actually squeaks a little when Derek lets himself flop over onto his back. Then he’s lying with his side pressed against Stiles’ front now, head closer to Stiles’ chest then to the pillow. The muscles under Stiles hand move smoothly but fast and never break contact.

Derek is practically lying in his arms. This should be weird. It actually is weird, but the whole situation is, too, but Stiles needs this more than he thinks he should. He needs someone close right now. But he still needs to know what happened.

 

“He did escape?”

“Yeah. But not before the crystal took some of his power. The spell’s still active, though,” Derek says against the skin of Stiles’ neck, making him shiver slightly. This is so very intimate, so out of the left field and yet it still feels so incredibly right that Stiles moves his hand down from Derek’s shoulder to his chest, clutching the t-shirt and pulling the werewolf closer.

They can lie like this, talking in hushed voices without Stiles feeling anything but a slight pull from the magic.

“This is going fast, isn’t it?” It’s not what he meant to say but it’s true nonetheless. And they need to talk about it sooner or later. And maybe sooner should be now.

“Yes,” Derek simply says before moving up on the bed and away.

“No… no don’t do that. That’s not what I meant. I just… please, come back here,” Stiles hears himself plead, can’t stand the thought of being alone right now. It sort of feels like the Nogitsune all over again, this time not trapped in his head but still unable to find the right words, to convey what is going on in his mind.

His emotions must be visible on his face, because Derek’s there in an instant, arms wrapped around Stiles, fingers carding through his hair while one of his hands rests against his neck.

“I just wanted to turn off the lights, actually.”

It’s a lie and not a very good one, but Stiles lets it go, just moves closer to Derek, struggling to keep his eyes open.

“It is going fast. And if this is over, we could just start at being friends.”

Derek’s voice s soft, sadness underlining it so obviously that Stiles doesn’t need to be a werewolf to hear it. Friends. That would be the logical step. Friends and only friends sounds wrong though, like Stiles knows it won’t be enough.

“Would you want that to happen?”

“I… I know it’s not the bond. Because that would work with friends as well. I’d like to be friends with you. We haven’t really tried that, yet.”

That’s not really what Stiles asked and he tells Derek as much.

“No. If I could decide, then no. I like it. The fact that this might be more, might be what's been missing in my life.”

Stiles drifts off again when he feels Derek move, hears the click of the light switch. He doesn’t know how late it is, but he feels the exhaustion creeping in with a force he can’t fight.

“Sometimes, I think I shouldn’t have approached Scott and you at all. I might've saved us some trouble,” Derek says out of the blue. But Stiles knows it’s connected to their earlier conversation. Derek wants him safe, wants to protect him.

Always has, always will, of that Stiles is sure now. Derek is D after all.

“Pretty sure we’d be dead by now if you had." He pauses, then, "Night, D.,” Stiles whispers against warm and surprisingly soft skin. He thinks he doesn’t imagine the way Derek pulls him closer, tighter against the werewolf’s body.

He has almost drifted off fully when he feels Derek’s warm breath against his ear.

“Night, sunshine.”

He turns his head slightly, so that he’s even closer to Derek, nuzzles into his neck and hopes Derek can feel it.

 

++++

 

Blood. So much blood. And pain. Warm, sticky blood running down his body. It’s his own, as well as someone else’s. His face is covered with it, as are his arms and hands.

His hands are bound tightly in front of him, so tight that it hurts.

The searing pain ebbs and flows, wrecking his body, making him scream. It feels like a knife being plunged in then dragged up his chest. Over and over again. It feels like his skin's being stripped from his bones, slowly and repeatedly.

The blood soaks through his clothes, sticking his legs to the chair he's sitting on. He can’t move, even though only his hands are restricted in.

There’s another body next to him, but he can’t turn his head to look. There’s fur visible in his periphery. Soaked in blood, not moving, not indicating if there’s still a life to be saved.

His wolf. It’s his wolf.

No. No, no, no.

This can’t be happening.

 

Stiles is almost punched into awareness, the shock of the dream making him gasp out and then groan in pain when his body follows him into consciousness, just a step behind.

He’s not in his bed anymore, nor his home.

He can see blurry trees in the darkness that surrounds him, he can feel rough bark pressed against his back, and his hands are bound behind him. It’s like a bucket full of ice upended over him and he’s suddenly much more awake.

Stiles knows where he is.

It’s the Nemeton behind him and the Preserve in front of him, doused in heavy mist and murky darkness. There’s not light around, save for the stars. It’s the night of the new moon, so Stiles knows what this is about.

He’s going to die tonight.

“Ah, the guardian is awake at last. Still such a novice. Glad you could join in. It’s no fun having to do this alone, you know,” the voice comes from his left, while the man's body remains out of his field of vision, which makes this a little more scary than he’d anticipated.

Stiles likes looking danger in the eye, he finds it helpful to know what he’s up against and to gauge reactions. Not seeing anything at all is something he has trouble handling, and more so since the possession.

“It talks about you. It's so fond of you finally being awake, being able to hear it. You do hear it, right?”

He doesn’t but that’s not something he's willing to tell a psychotic warlock trying to use his magic to awake a darker version of the Nemeton. He can feel it, though, coursing through him even stronger now that he’s close and knows what his spark is meant to do.

He feels warmth emitting from behind him, feels it settling against him like a cloak of protection. Only it won’t do him any good now.

“How…,” he’s interrupted before he can even form the question in his head.

“How did you get here? Come on, I know how to incapacitate a werewolf, even one so tightly wound around you. I've got to confess, I was surprised to see this one there and to find he's gotten through the magic. Interesting. As for you, well… magic, simple as that.” The warlock still doesn’t step around to show his face.

Stiles had been about to ask how they are going to do this, the ritual and all. But that works is just as well. The way the guy talks, at least Stiles knows Derek’s still alive. He can feel it as well.

He doesn’t know how the bond really works, the technicalities or mechanism of the it. He only knows he can feel Derek still in this world. It’s weird knowing this, knowing that he's connected to another living being like this. It's unexpected as well, but he’s been dealing with supernatural surprises for long enough to just go with the flow on this one.

“It will be so pleased once your essence soaks into the ground. It's been waiting for so long. Too long. This pack was neglectful and absent. It has no right or claim anymore. All of this will be mine. It’s power mine to harness, to harvest.”

Stiles barely refrains from rolling his eyes. He’s afraid of having them stick like that because he wants to roll them so hard. Great, a supervillain monologue and for a moment, Stiles had actually thought he would be spared. It’s not like biding time will do him any good. No one knows where he is. He can’t help but try anyway. His mouth always runs away from him, so why should it be different this time around?

“When you talk about my essence, you mean my blood, right? I don’t think I’m comfortable with you trying to get any other ‘essence’ out of me. We haven’t even gone on a date yet.”

It’s stupid, he thinks. He's being too forward, too abrasive. He knows all this, but of course it doesn’t keep him from saying it, though.

“Still so very mouthy. It won’t do you any good. In fact, I think I’ll try to shut you up now. Wouldn't want you to say anything that could interrupt our little happening,” the warlock says from right next to Stiles ear, sounding very much like Peter did during his power-hungry alpha phase.

Then the man’s blank face swims into Stiles’ field of vision, making him realize that there must still be some of the magic used to keep him under left behind. He feels dizzy all over, unable to focus on anything but there's low level pain radiating through him. He has no idea where its coming from, but his whole body aches like he's recently done an intense workout.

The Nementon’s energy clings to him with tendrils wound tightly not only around his body but around his soul as well.

There aren’t any more words spoken before the warlock smirks in a way that makes Stiles gasp in fear. He feels a hand on his chest, sliding down, leaving of trail of fierce coldness behind until it stops. It stops right where Stiles can feel the pain originating from, but it’s numbed somehow, as if kept back. But from what, Stiles doesn't know. And then the hand twists unexpectedly and with sudden violence.

It’s as if a bubble pops. and then Stiles’ body is engulfed in pain. Pain so fundamentally intense that he simply knows it’s going to be fatal once the warlock is done with him.

“Yes. Bleed. Make it nurture the earth, make it feed the roots. Bleed, little guardian, as it is your purpose to provide.” These words are whispered against his skin, almost kissed onto his cheek.

This closeness, this unwanted touch, it's what makes him start to struggle and to seriously fight what's happening. He ignores the twisting pain of what he’s sure a knife plunged into his stomach and head-butts the warlock away from him. The reprieve doesn’t last long - the warlock's hands are back soon enough, making the pain intensify, tenfold.

Another knife. More pain. More blood.

He screams. He screams himself hoarse, thinking of the dream he had and he's insanely grateful that no wolf is bound and lying on the ground next to him, dying alongside him. He screwed that up all on his own so he’ll pay the price all on his own.

D. Derek. Please.

He’s not completely aware anymore. The pain makes him dizzy, the magic he’s bound with does the rest, making his awareness dim until it starts fading away. The blood loss is not severe, not yet, but it can’t be long before he reaches that limit,too.

Over the weird chanting the warlock has started, he can finally hear the Nemeton. Disjointed murmurs that don't make any sense but feel comforting nonetheless. He hears the aggravation about what’s going on and he knows knows the tree is far from being pleased.

It feels scared and, not unlike Stiles himself, it feels unsure of what the ritual will do.

He feels like he's suddenly fallen into a trance cause by, in equal parts, the blood loss, magic and pain. Everything he feels, all of it contributes to the swirling colors he suddenly sees floating around the clearing. Twirls and flashes, cottony-looking clouds that fill the air around him, illuminating the darkness that had settled so heavily.

Maybe this is what crossing over to the other side feels like. The pain is gone, even though he can still feel the knives sticking out from his stomach. But the lights are pretty, oh-so-pretty, and he wants to touch, to reach out and grab onto them and let himself float away.

It all comes crashing down when a black shape bowls out from between the trees. It’s happening so fast that he can’t even yell a warning before the huge wolf is down, writhing on the ground after being hit by a spell.

“Ah. The cavalry,” the warlock mockingly intones, all the while moving around as if nothing unusual happened at all. The warlock looks almost careless, as if the wolf sprinting at him again is just a minor inconvenience. Seeing the way the powerful magic cloaks him, Stiles thinks it might really be just like swatting flies for him.

Stiles is losing focus more frequently now, he can’t follow all the wolf’s movements and shouts of pain when the massive body collides with his. The warlock just laughs, high and fluttery, like bells ringing. It terrifies Stiles even more.

He’s shivering from pain and fear, sobbing a little when the wolf struggles to get back up onto his paws. Eyes flashing blue, lips pulled back into a snarl that shows his fangs, the wolf faces the warlock again. Stiles wants to reach and hold him back, he feels himself slipping away and doesn’t want to do it alone. It’s selfish, he knows this but he’s scared. He’s only a teenager and being so close to death again right after a demonic spirit almost reached that goal, well, this is not what he’d planned for this year to say the least.

“Derek,” he whispers into the darkness closing in on him. He feels the warmth from the Nemeton reaching out now, not only covering his back but enveloping him entirely.

“Please, D…. I… don’t want… not alone,” he gasps out before he feels soft fur brushing against his side and a desperate howl so loud he’d cringe if he could still move. Then he feels the night air around them.

“What? NO! NO!” Screeches reach his ears, but he’s too far gone to care much, all he can feel is the warm body next to him and the bubble of safety surrounding them.

He can let go now and so he does.

 

++++++++

 

In the end, it’s so anticlimactic that Stiles wants to cry over all the useless drama. He misses most of the important action due to being unconscious and actively bleeding out against the stump of a magical tree.

There are flashes of a white room though. The wolf engulfed in red light that pins him to the tree and Stiles as well. Whispered words Share with him. Give him power to protect you repeated over and over again.

No blood. No pain. Just a white room, red light and the wolf howling desperately until Stiles finally reaches out. Something snaps then, auburn mixes with the red, golden-browns swirling through deep ruby. The colors twirl, twist and reach out to each other, binding together to form a line that looks stronger than anything he’s ever seen.

Good. Be the guardian. Use the bond. Protect your one.

It’s the tree. The Nemeton is talking to him. And for once in his life, Stiles listens.

The dark magic wrapped around him shatters, making him gasp, splutter and cling to the wolf at his side. His own magic slides through him in warm waves, taking over everything that was damaged, healing, repairing, and making him stronger.

The howls tapper off only to pick up again, only this time they're triumphant, victorious.

He feels his power exploding outward, reaching its goal, and when he looks into the wolf’s eyes they flash red. Then everything is dark again.

He blinks his eyes open to the sight of Scott and Kira wrangling a bound warlock who looks about as powerful as a rodent in hibernation. Tendrils of red and brown are still floating around the man in black who was about to end Stiles' life just minutes ago.

Anger so fierce that makes him gasp closes in on him. He blinks when he sees the colored threads surrounding the warlock tightening around him, making him yelp.

Deaton’s kneeling next to them, securing a black crystal into a wooden chest while Malia prowls around, probably making sure nothing else is about to jump them.

“Hey, welcome in the land of the living. Literally. Careful now, you’re still bleeding a little.”

Lydia. She’s kneeling right beside him, hand softly stroking through his sweat-matted hair, not caring one bit that she’s getting her clothes dirty. He blinks at her once, twice and then sinks back against the fluffy warmth that seems to be curled around him.

He looks at the stars, wonders if he’s dreaming. He could be lying in his bed back home for all he knows. But then the pain registers, not as fierce as before but still there. He's healing already, the stab wounds and the marks around his wrists. He’s not sure why, though.

“Wha… what happened?” he manages to croak the words out, his voice still shot to hell.

“We’re not really sure. There was a bubble of light when we arrived. Then we could see you and hear you again. Your heart stopped. For a second only, but it had all the wolves howling. That cretin over there was screaming his head off, firing spells at you. Then the light pulsed red, shot out towards our dear warlock and was followed by the big guy here,” Lydia says sort of resigned, as if this kind of thing happens to her every day. Might well be the case, seeing as this is Beacon Hills.

The she reaches out to pat the black fur pressed against Stiles’ side. There’s a giant wolf curled around him, body covering his side almost entirely, paws on his chest and head pressed into the crook of Stiles neck. Soft, warm puffs of breath flutter over his skin and he feels like this is the most normal thing in the world.

“Scott and Deaton managed to set up the crystal from our glorious failed first attempt. But this time it worked; Malia and Kira got him down and begging pretty fast after that. But I think the light is what really took him down. Guess the Nemeton knows what's good for it after all.”

Stiles can only nod, too exhausted to muster up the energy to participate in the conversation. He doesn't speak up when Deaton comes over, either. He's quiet as Deaton checks him for injuries, declares the ones still bleeding minor scrapes but backs away when he earns a growl after tying to get Stiles to sit up.

The growl vibrates through Stiles, settles a safe feeling over him that he hasn’t felt in a while, maybe even not since he was a child. The energy from the tree, his own magic and his spark, they all lie satisfied and calm beneath his skin. There’s no squeezing tightness of darkness anymore.

“How did you know?” Stiles asks after a while, when his head's stopped spinning so much and he’s relatively sure he won’t puke on someone’s designer shoes or fur if he opens his mouth.

“We kept watch on your place, just in case. Deaton was on standby as well. When we saw a weird light, we checked on you, found Derek blacked out,” Scott says, sounding all proud and satisfied. The rest of the pack is now standing around Stiles, while he's still leaning against the Nemeton.

The warlock, now secured and cursing under his breath, will be handed over to the sheriff’s department with charges of kidnapping of a minor as well as assault. Deaton will make sure that the crystal stays as black as it is now, sealing this kind of magic away, hopefully forever.

"I don't really know how he knew." Scott says, looking at the wolf and then at Stiles. "But the second he woke up, Derek shifted and ran off into the woods. We just followed him. That's how we found you." He pauses and then grins, "good to have you back, man. It was weird without you."

Stiles knows exactly what he means.

 

++++

Heartbeat set at steady pace, I’ll let the rhythm show me the way
No one can find us here, fade out and disappear

Derek doesn’t shift back, instead he just presses closer to Stiles when Scott drives them home. Scott tells them on the way that the Sheriff's waiting. He'd agreed to stay away when Deaton told him that they didn’t know what to expect and that the Sheriff wasn’t immune to magic.

Stiles is glad his dad listened this time, he doesn’t want to think about what might've happened otherwise.

He curls around Derek in the backseat of the car, face buried in the thick fur and lets his eyes closed. He listens to Scott explain that Deaton thinks the Nemeton played favorites, providing Stiles with enough power to heal his wounds to a degree they weren’t fatal anymore. It also, Scott explains, give him the power to defeat the warlock and to protect the pack he's bonded too, namely the Hales.

Scott doesn’t sound sad about that fact, but rather resigned, as if he knew this would be the case all along.

The second they step through the door, Stiles is pulled into a tight hug and lets himself sink into his dad’s embrace. He’s exhausted, barely able to keep his eyes open, but he still needs to have this hug. And so, it seems, does his dad. But then the Sheriff freezes, he stills with Stiles in his arms.

Stiles is about to ask what’s wrong, fearing the worst when his dad snorts and says: “Oh come on, not again.”

“Again? Again, dad? What the hell?” Stiles flails a little when he tries to pull away. Because what? He’s staring at his dad and doesn’t even realize that he has one hand curled into Derek’s fur, anchoring both of them.

“Well, when you were six or seven you brought a wolf home every time you came from play-dates with the Hales. It went on for a year. The first time I almost shot him.”

It’s like a switch being flipped and Stiles suddenly knows it’s true. The dreams he’s had, the images of a wolf being curled up against him, the boy that looked so familiar. It really was just that simple. And true. It wasn’t just the wolf being there after his mom apparently decided not let Stiles get close to the Hales. It had been there before as well, watching over him.

“He never went away until we'd securely tucked you into bed. It always sat on our porch, watching your window. It was quite cute, after I’d gotten over the shock of there being a wolf outside, of course. He was so tiny in the beginning,” his dad recalls with a fond expression.

Stiles almost snorts, but then actually does when Derek gently nips at his hand. His dad looks at them with amusement shining through, he only raises his eyebrows slightly when Stiles starts to scratch Derek’s ear. Neither of them comment on the way Derek almost falls against Stiles’ side. He can only imagine how they must look like.

“I... forgot. I only remembered recently. I had dreams, though” Stiles finally says, surprised how remorseful he sounds. His dad just nods.

“Well, you were young. And Claudia… she didn’t want you to be around the Hales anymore. I suppose that explains why he showed up only as a wolf after that, huh?” the Sheriff shrugs, looking a little rueful.

“Guess I should have known who it was. It’s okay, Stiles. Don’t look at me like I might forbid you to see him again. We went through that and it didn’t end well.”

“Thanks, dad. Really, thank you. I’ll… I’ll be in my room.”

Stiles is already halfway up the stairs, Derek right by his side, when his dad speaks again: “Leave the door open. And Derek stays for breakfast. It’s late already.”

Once they're alone in his room, curled up on his bed and wound tightly around each other, Derek slowly shifts back. It’s a weird feeling, the bones and muscles moving under Stiles' hands, the sounds the body pressed close to his emits. But Stiles can only think how this is part of Derek and that Derek feels safe enough to let him be part of it, too.

There is so much Stiles wants to say, so many thoughts racing through his mind, but in the end only one thing really matters.

“Thank you.”

Derek only pulls him closer, saying nothing, and Stiles isn’t even sure what he’s thanking him for. For being his imaginary friend when they were both children, for protecting him when they were children and now when they're so much older, or maybe for actually genuinely liking him. Stiles doesn’t know, really, but thinks maybe it’s for all of those reasons.

“I can’t believe it was you, dude. And that I couldn’t remember. I should have remembered you.”

Derek moves even closer, hiding his face against Stiles’ neck and then breathes in deeply. He's scenting, Stiles realizes. He's been doing that for a while and Stiles finds that he really likes it.

“I forgot, too. After... you didn’t come by anymore.... I remember it being hard letting go. But then high school happened and the fire...” Derek sighs and Stiles notes how he deliberately doesn’t say anything about Kate. “I don’t know, but it slipped away. It shouldn’t have. A guardian is important to a pack.”

“Don’t, Derek. It’s not your fault. I think the dreams I’ve had were a way the Nemeton tried to prepare me. They were trying to show me that the bond already existed. They showed me, or tried at least, to show me what might happen, what has happened.”

Derek grunts and it tickles against his sensitive skin, making Stiles wriggle a little.

“Didn’t know you could shift fully.”

“Me either. I…. I haven’t done that since before the fire. Something just told me to, called out to me.”

“The Nemeton?”

“More likely it was you. I heard you calling for help.”

Stiles turns his head a little, presses a soft kiss against Derek’s warm skin. Then freezes, he doesn’t know why he did just that. His heart pounds again, blood rushing through his ears and he starts to think about apologies when Derek nuzzles him. Derek's lips are surprisingly soft when they kiss. It's not a sexual kiss, but instead one that reassures, that shows that things are good.

They’ll have to talk about all of this, they'll have to define whatever it is exactly that's between them. But for some reason Stiles is pretty sure that they’ll be fine now.

“Your eyes are red again,” he says into the semi-darkness of his room, his room that feels more like an intimate setting then it should. It makes him smile.

“Yeah. I’m not sure but I think it was that tree. I felt your magic; I felt it in my bones when my eyes changed. Not sure if it means I’m an alpha again. There isn’t much of a pack. Though, honestly? I’m not sure I want there to be. It’s good how it is.”

And that’s another discussion they'll have to have, preferably with Scott and the rest of the pack present. Another task for a later date. Because right now he just wants to lie in Derek’s arms and marvel at the fact that they're both still alive.

“You’re my alpha. You were my woof-wolf.”

“Stiles,” Derek says in this resigned tone that shows how much he knows what Stiles thinks right now. It makes Stiles grin wide against Derek’s cheek.

“You're still my wolf. Officially now, too. I’m your guardian.”

“The pack’s guardian.”

“Yeah, but you're an Alpha again and as we both know, I was always destined to be the Hale’s Guardian. No alpha, no pack,” Stiles knows he sounds smug but this is something he doesn’t want to let go.

“Stiles?”

“Yes?”

“Shut up.”

“Make me.”

It’s so cliché that Stiles laughs even as Derek presses his mouth against his own. There are no sparks, no fireworks, but there doesn't need to be. Instead,there's a string between them that suddenly tightens, pulling them closer to each other.

Stiles laughs even more when Derek confesses between soft kisses that he’s missed hearing him talk, missed his voice out loud and clear, and all the stupid things Stiles rambles on about.

His heart skips more than one beat.

He falls asleep pressed close to Derek, secure with the knowledge that things actually turned out okay for once and that they’ll be even better in the morning.

 

++++

 

The tree is huge, green, and alive.

The magic it inherits pulses through everything connected to it. Colorful lines of energy flow between the branches and right down to the roots. It’s been alive for centuries, millennia even – in different forms and different incarnations. And it’s here to stay.

The tree has found a solid foundation again. The pack is healthy, even if it’s a joint one not grown or bred. It’s two packs within one and that seems to be enough.

There will be more hurdles soon to cross, more problems to face, and even more deaths to fight. There will be betrayals from family everyone expects but never thought possible. But that’s in the future.

Now the tree hums in satisfaction at the contentment it gets from the guardian bond. There’s happiness and love, many different levels Different level of love but all of it true and pure.

The tree thrums with the powers of two alphas, with knowledge that letting that power back where it belongs was a good decision. The tree hums and the pack settles for a while. Things will be turbulent soon enough, but the tree feels everything will be all right in the end.

The Guardian and his wolf. Together. Just like it was said to be.

The End

 photo starkickbackartSterekBigBang2014-1.jpg
art by Starkickback